Over the last few years motorcyclists have begun to use cameras to capture their rides, whether used to film their scenic routes or as a means of capturing helpful evidence in the event of an accident.
Sometimes, they are attached to the bike and others they are attached to the helmet.
When it comes to the legalities around attaching a camera to your helmet it can be a bit confusing.
So, I have put together a short article to explain the ins and outs of motorcycle helmet camera laws in the UK, which will hopefully answer all your questions on the subject.
Before we get started please note that I am not a lawyer and it is always recommended you do your own thorough research when it comes to what is within the law; your local council or the Gov.uk website would be a good start point for you.
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Is a Motorcycle Helmet Camera Legal?
Yes, helmet cameras are legal with one stipulation; the camera must be mounted using a bracket, it cannot be secured by drilling holes into the shell of the helmet.
This is because it compromises the integrity of the shell and therefore its safety.
Is Filming in Public Legal?
Filming in public is also perfectly legal as it stands, so using your helmet camera to record your ride is within UK law.
The Met police state the following:
“Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.”
Can Footage Recorded be Used as Evidence?
Having checked this out with multiple solicitors I can safely say that yes footage recorded from your helmet camera can be used as evidence.
One of the big advantages of wearing a helmet camera is that you can record incidents on the road and should there be an accident you have clear footage of what happened.
RoSPA – Road Safety Research released a publication that you can read here, about the most common causes of motorcycle crashes. Significant data suggests that the most common cause of an accident is other road users.
“A study of 100,162 motorcycle crashes found that the most commonly occuring crash type involved vehicles turning right from a junction into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist from the rider’s right.”
It is no wonder, therefore, that bikers are turning to cameras to capture these terrible situations.
Many legal services suggest that helmet camera footage can provide invaluable evidence in the event of an accident and can be used in Court.
The Police, Courts and Insurers are all appreciative of footage as it provides an indisputable version of events, and therefore directly can point to which party was at fault.
Some motorcycle insurers have even started reducing premiums for riders who wear helmet cameras.
Can the Police Seize Footage and Use it Against You?
On the reverse side of things, the police can seize your footage if they think that it has recorded an offence.
This is covered under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 (PACE).
Section 19 is the most applicable to helmet cameras.
As long as the officer believes that you have committed an offence he has the powers to seize your camera and a right to use that footage against you in court.
Common Helmet Camera Footage Issues
There are few problems that can occur with cameras that can impede the footage from being suitable as evidence or indeed being that super cool HD shot of one of the Welsh mountain passes.
Not all cameras are made equal in terms of quality
You may find that your 720p camera is perfectly fine when used around the house, but at 60mph on the back roads it may not quite capture footage as well as you imagined.
We covered a selection of the best motorcycle helmet cameras in a previous article, check that out to see some options with acceptable image quality.
Mounting dictates coverage
Of course, if you are choosing to mount a helmet camera for the purposes of potentially capturing evidence should an incident occur on your ride; you are going to want to mount your camera to get the best possible angle.
This is easier said than done. Mounting your helmet to one or the other side of the helmet will obstruct the view on the side of which the camera is mounted.
Mounting the camera on the top of your helmet can be too high if not positioned appropriately to capture license plates etc. Mounting on the chin bar can be too low.
The key is to make sure your bracket is secure, tighten up any bolts, sit on the bike while stationary with your helmet, and test the camera to see how much of the road and surroundings it records.
Technology is prone to malfunction
I am the last person interested in tech so if something goes wrong with a battery, or format, calibration, I just walk away and leave it to my partner.
With that said there are a few things I have learnt that are useful:
- If you are on a long ride you may want a second battery for your helmet so you know you can switch it out if you run out of juice (undoubtedly that is when something worthy of a camera will happen.)
- Some cameras can be charged with a wire as you ride, if you have a USB charger fitted.
- Invest in a decent memory card to save your videos, maybe a spare if it is a particularly long trip.
- Check out the format your camera saves the videos in is universal, so you can upload and then view it on your computer/tablet/phone etc. No point recording anything if you need to be an MI5 tech whizz to view it.
- If you think you will get caught short in the rain or plan to ride in the wet weather, make sure your camera is either waterproof or is enclosed in a waterproof case. Also, bear in mind that water will get on the lens and this can obstruct the camera’s view.
Is Wearing a Helmet Camera a Good Idea?
There are plenty of debates online about whether or not wearing a helmet camera is a good idea.
As a relatively new phenomenon, there is not a whole lot of actual scientific research into the pros and cons available yet.
Arguments against helmet cameras consist of:
- Affects a rider’s concentration, as they are conscious of the camera and want to capture excellent riding, and are more focused on how they look than actually riding.
- Some argue that cameras encourage reckless riding as riders want to capture stunts or high speeds to upload to YouTube etc.
- Aerodynamics could be hindered by bulky camera units mounted on the side.
- If not mounted securely a unit could become loose and be a very dangerous projectile to other road users.
To throw my thoughts into the mix, I would suggest wearing a helmet camera for the purposes of potentially capturing evidence in the event of an incident is a very sensible thing to do.
By capturing crisp footage you have indisputable proof that an accident was not your fault.
As action cameras continue to be developed specifically for motorcyclists, I would expect we will start to see more aerodynamic options available and improvements in mounts. This has been seen in the sleek new designs of Bluetooth communication intercoms.
Providing the camera is not physically obstructing your view or causing you notable issues with wind, I don’t think it would be too much of an issue for everyday riding circumstances.
Lastly, unfortunately, you will always get idiots on the road.
Give them a powerful machine and they are going to want to show off and put on a performance, we have no control over that and they usually end up paying the consequences regardless.
If your intention is to use your helmet camera as a deterrent, as a potential evidence gathering system, and to perhaps capture the scenery on an epic ride then you are certainly good to go from a legal standpoint.