* Russian dashboard cameras catch first images of meteorite
* Pervasive use due to crime, corruption on Russian roads
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, Feb 15 It is no coincidence the first
videos that captured the images of a meteorite breaking apart
over central Russia on Friday were shot from drivers' dashboard
The small video cameras, fixed to the dashboard or rear view
mirror of a car to film oncoming traffic and the road ahead, are
immensely popular in Russia because of motorists' fears about
the corruption, violence and insurance fraud schemes that can
make driving in the country a nightmare.
"It's the little thing that can prove the truth," said
Dmitry Isaev, 35, a Moscow motorist with a dashboard camera in
his car. "There are so many conflicts on the road, and it's
often the one thing that can prove your point to the police."
Dashboard camera footage appeared remarkably quickly on the
Internet and television on Friday showing the meteorite hurtling
through the sky and exploding over central Russia.
Footage shot on the cameras is already an Internet staple
although usually showing feats such as motorists driving
half-wrecked cars, running other automobiles off the road or, in
one case, threatening other drivers with an axe.
One video that spread across the Internet last year was a
five-minute montage that showed bypassers throwing themselves
against cars on purpose in what it said were attempts to collect
money through insurance. here
"Policemen tell people that if they want their case to stand
up, it's best to get a dashboard camera," said Isaev.
Dashboard cameras have also produced the first images of
other dramatic incidents, including a Russian airliner sliding
off the runway in late December and smashing onto a highway near
Moscow, killing five people.
Russian roads have a bad reputation. According to
Trafficsafe, a British-based road safety organisation, 28,000
people were killed in traffic accidents in Russia in 2012.
It said 13,000 accidents were caused by drink driving.
The popularity of dashboard cameras may also be connected
with popular tales of corruption among Russian traffic police,
regularly cited by independent pollster Levada as one of the
least trusted institutions in the country.
Most Russian motorists can say how big a bribe they would
expect to pay to escape punishment for traffic violations - from
not wearing a seat belt, to running a red light.
Russia was ranked 133rd place in the world for corruption in
2012 by Transparency International, on a par with Honduras and
(Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Jon Hemming)