When a meteorite streaked across the Russian sky last Friday, hitting parts of central Russia with an impact similar to a 'cosmic shotgun blast,' we here in Canada were able to almost instantly view it from many different angles.
And that's not because everyone in that part of the world just happened to have a camera out for fun. Many of the angles were shot from car dashboard cameras, which are incredibly popular in Russia because they are often used to settle insurance disputes and kept from being taken advantage of.
"The conditions of Russian roads are perilous, with insane gridlock in cities and gigantic ditches, endless swamps and severe wintry emptiness on the backroads and highways," writes Marina Galperina in an article for Animal. "Everyone should have a camera on their dashboard. It's better than keeping a lead pipe under your seat for protection (but you might still want that lead pipe)."
[ Related: Ten-ton meteor explodes over central Russia ]
And it isn't just the poor road conditions, but also the large areas of lawlessness and corrupt cops. She says physical fights between drivers, hit-and-runs and accidents happen all the time and verbal claims go nowhere in Russian courts or with insurance companies. But drivers have a much better chance if they have video proof.
According to Business Insider, in 2011 there were more than 200,000 traffic accidents, killing more than 28,000 people. By contrast in Canada there were just over 123,000 accidents in 2009, the lowest number in at least 20 years. Out of those crashes, 2,011 people died. Per capita just under four times more people die on Russian roads than here in Canada.
[ Related: Meteorite impact was like a ‘cosmic shotgun blast’ ]
Plus, the Russian Highway Patrol is known for brutality, corruption and making an income from bribes. According to Transparency International, Russia ranks 133rd in the world for corruption, where number one is the least corrupt nation.
Canada ranks 9 and Finland ranks at the top of the list. And Russians know how corrupt their traffic cops are. In a poll last year, more than half of people who had interacted with police said they were asked for a bribe.
There is also the issue of people getting hit by cars on purpose looking for a payoff. Dash-cams are now keeping people safe from false accusations, unreasonable bribes and other events.
Combine this with heavily censored television programs and a lack of censorship online and dash-cam videos have become quite popular, especially on sites such as the Ru CHP LiveJournal.
For us, this means some amazing videos. Here's a small sample:
A jet buzzing just metres above a highway
Cows spilling onto the road
A manhole blasting into the air lifting a car right off the street
A truck driver getting in a head-on crash, being thrown through the windshield and somehow landing on his feet have all be captured by these dash-cams.