It’s been three years since a driver plowed into Megan Odett and her
one-year-old son in a Washington, D.C. street, and even now, she can’t fully
straighten her leg.
“They never caught the person who left me lying in the crosswalk, curled up
around my son,” Odett, 35, told The Huffington Post by phone last week.
The three witnesses to the crash couldn’t agree on the driver’s license plate
number, so no one was ever prosecuted. Though Odett was on foot when she was
hit, she normally travels with her children on a 100-pound cargo bike. After
several close calls cycling, the crosswalk crash was the final straw that
prompted her to wear a GoPro camera on her rides.
“I didn’t have any faith if that were to happen to me again, the person
responsible would be brought to justice and kept off the road,” said Odette, the
force behind Kidical Mass D.C., a group that promotes safe family
Odette is just one of many cyclists turning to a "black box:" an impact-resistant, mountable
camera that records footage during a ride. The small, hi-res cameras could serve
as a deterrent for motorists who may otherwise drive recklessly or harass
bikers. More commonly, though, they’re a form of insurance for bikers who can
provide footage for police after a crash.
In 2012, the most recent year with full data, 726 cyclists were killed in
motor vehicle-involved crashes, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety
administration. Even when they’re not fatal, bike crashes can become
financial and legal catastrophes, said Chicago-based personal injury lawyer
Brendan Kevenides, whose firm specializes in bicycle advocacy.
Such incidents add up: according to the NHTSA data, some 49,000 cyclists were
injured in crashes with cars in 2012.
Kevenides told The Huffington Post that having a point-of-view camera is
especially helpful in cases of hit-and-runs, since the proximity to the vehicle
as well as the image and audio quality are better than that of red light and
surveillance cameras. In other cases, the camera is an impartial observer that
can help determine which party was at fault.
"What the driver says happened and what the cyclist says has happened can
help break that tie," Kevenides said. If it’s the cyclist who’s at fault,
Kevenides added that “a video a lot of times will prevent the hassle of going to
The video holds up well in court as long as a biker gets on the stand and
testifies that the film clearly and accurately depicts what happened, according
"[Point-of-view] cameras are invaluable for legal purposes,” he said.
The market is already reacting accordingly. In February, Australian
entrepreneurs launched the Fly6, a combination rear bike light and
audio/visual camera specifically designed to record drivers behind a cyclist who
may rear-end, cut off or unsafely pass a biker.
Australian cyclist Paul Ludlow was able to use the Fly6 footage below to turn
the tide on an investigation in which police initially believed the account of
the driver who allegedly cut Ludlow off.
“[The camera] proved everything,” Ludlow told HuffPost via email. “The police
then advised me that they were going to charge the driver as he had failed to
give way to an oncoming vehicle.”
Kevenides said it’s a shame to put the onus on cyclists to defensively record
potential violations against them, and he hopes the cameras ultimately function
“When drivers become more aware that people are using cameras, they’ll be
more careful — if for no other reason that they’re likely to get caught,”
Dina Driscoll agrees. A 30-year-old Philadelphian who bikes with her kids,
she wears her camera mounted to her helmet.
“It’s the most visible to drivers,” Driscoll explained, saying it's had a
positive impact for her. “I point to it sometimes if a driver is being really
aggressive, [as if to say] ‘Hey, I notice you.’”