By Andrew Ganz
Friday, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 3:16 pm
 
Unless you're new to the Internet (and if you are, welcome!), you've probably seen video clips on sites like YouTube of almost unbelievable situations occurring on Russian roads recorded by dashboard-mounted video cameras.

They've picked up tanks plowing through snow, Hollywood-style car jumps, donkeys wandering down urban streets, jet fighters buzzing through traffic, Russian tough guys pulling guns on grannies, overloaded trucks careening out of control, slip sliding cars and some of the most grisly wrecks imaginable.

This morning, Russia's dash cams made their way into major news outlets across the world when they picked up countless angles of an extraordinary event: A meteor plunging to earth. Behind the sad story of the meteor's impact, which is said to have injured about 1,000 people in the Ural region of Russia, there's another point worth making: Lots and lots of Russians have dashboard-mounted cameras.



What's Russia watching?
Russians install cameras on their dashboards or windows to watch each other. Last fall, Al Jazeera estimated that about 1 million Russian cars have cameras mounted to their dashboards or windshields.

The practice isn't particularly common for civilians elsewhere, although police in many countries use cameras mounted to their rearview mirrors.

In Russia, where corruption is an ordinary affair, the dashboard cameras serve to protect motorists from unlawful activities. Of course, Russia is, well, Russia, which means that the police are just as likely to perpetuate crime as the criminals themselves.

Insurance fraud, which often involves corrupt police officials, is an everyday occurrence. Since what an American might view as comprehensive collision insurance is difficult and expensive to acquire for older cars.

Fraud is hardly the only motivation, however. Russian drivers know that they can encounter just about anything on their roads because, as blogger Marina Galperina put it in a particularly insightful 2012 post, "psychopaths are abundant on Russian roads."

Popular blog English Russia even dedicates an entire section to the country's roads because, as the site once said, "something interesting happens in Russia every day."

But every once in a while, dash cameras pick up something far more interesting. Like a meteor streaking across the morning sky.