If you're driving in Orlando, smile. You may be on camera. Several hundred city vehicles either have cameras on board, or soon will have them.
"The camera doesn't lie," explained Ray Scullian, the city's risk management chief. He's overseen the installation of cameras in city vehicles ranging from small cars to huge garbage trucks.
The camera systems are designed to improve driving by city employees and protect the city from costly false accusations following traffic accidents.
WHO WILL SUE?
"Once our vehicles are involved in an accident, they become a target," continued Scullian. But on several occasions, the video from the on-board cameras have vindicated city employees and proven that the other driver in the crash was at fault.
Scullian says the cameras have already saved the city thousands of dollars in disproving false claims. He says millions more could eventually be saved, especially on serious crashes which often result in lawsuits.
The camera technology is from a company called DriveCam whose clients include large trucking companies and parents of teen drivers. The system senses unusual movements of the vehicle and automatically records 12 seconds of video to capture the event.
Every night, the video is uploaded to DriveCam headquarters and analyzed. Footage of accidents, sudden braking, quick turns, and other unusual movements is then supplied to the driver's supervisor.
Scullion says the video is used to coach drivers. "They go over this 12-second event and talk about it in terms of how to improve upon the driving."
He says texting, eating, and talking on the phone has been virtually eliminated among drivers of city vehicles.
Scullion says, at first, there was lots of resistance by drivers of city vehicles. But, he says many have come to appreciate the cameras.
"One of our employees actually said, 'That camera watches my back,'" he said.
Local government officials in the Tampa Bay area have seen the cameras. A city of Tampa official says cost is one of the main reasons city vehicles there don't have cameras.