Dashboard cameras have grown in popularity among drivers now that this technology has become more affordable. Dash cams can record what goes on inside or outside the cab of a car, including auto accidents. They can be useful as a source of evidence during a car accident insurance claim or civil lawsuit. Many drivers do not understand, however, the legalities of dashboard cameras. Learn the laws in Texas before you install your device.
Are Dash Cams Legal in Texas?
Texas law does not specifically mention dashboard cameras. It does not make them legal or illegal but remains neutral. You can lawfully use a dashboard camera in the State of Texas. It is legal in Texas to use dash cams to record the road as well as the inside of the cab of a vehicle. You must make sure the placement of your cameras and the equipment used, however, meet Texas’ related laws.
- Windshield obstruction law. Texas Transportation Code 547.613 bars drivers from operating motor vehicles with any objects or materials attached to the windshield, side window or rear window that reduces or obstructs the driver’s clear view. Doing so is a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of up to $1,000.
- Airbag obstruction law. Texas traffic laws also prohibit attaching objects to the dashboard in a way that will obstruct airbags. Your dash cam should not be in a place where the airbag deploys. This could lead to a traffic ticket. It could also cause serious injuries in an auto accident.
- Audio recording restrictions. Many dash cams can record audio from inside the cab. Texas Penal Code 16.02 makes it illegal to record private conversations unless you are part of them. In general, your passengers must know you are recording them. To be safe, mute your dashboard camera to make sure you are not picking up any audio illegally.
- Distracted driving laws. Your dashboard camera should not distract you enough to lead to traffic infractions, such as failing to yield the right-of-way or following too closely. You should not review dash cam footage while driving. If you have a screen in your vehicle showing footage from the dash cam, it cannot be in your line of sight as a driver.
- Your right to record the police. You can lawfully use a dash cam to record police activity as long as you are not obstructing justice. A police officer cannot force you to show him or her your dash cam footage. Someone could use your footage as evidence in a case, however, if you receive a subpoena to submit it to the courts.
Position your dashboard camera in a way that does not reduce or obstruct your view of the road. Most people recommend attaching it in the bottom left or bottom right corner of the dashboard, or directly behind the rearview mirror. It is generally best not to attach it to the windshield itself. Try to find the smallest dash cam you can to make sure you are not obstructing your vision. Do not watch dash cam footage behind the wheel, and make sure you obtain permission before audio recording anyone.
What States Prohibit Dash Cameras?
If you drive out of Texas and into other states with a dashboard camera attached to your vehicle, make sure you understand the laws in each state. Most states have similar laws to Texas. Some prohibit windshield-mounted cameras but allow dashboard-mounted ones. In general, you will obey the law by positioning your dash cam in a way that does not obstruct your vision. Only Missouri and North Carolina do not have any restrictions on windshield obstructions. Most states also have similar laws against audio recording without permission. If you follow these two essential laws and do not let your dashboard camera distract you, you should generally be within the law in Texas.