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Using your dash cam abroad: what you need to know about driving in Europe

If you're taking your dash cam on holiday with you this summer, make sure you're aware of the laws on using them wherever you're going

Whether you take your own car on holiday or opt for a rental, bringing your dash cam along can provide a valuable safety net in case of an accident or incident. It’s not quite that simple, though.

Just as the rules of the road change from country to country throughout Europe, so do the rules on dash cams. Laws on recording in public, filming people without their permission and operating in-car electronics have no set EU regulation, and are left instead to individual national governments.

The UK happens to have some of the most relaxed rules in the world when it comes to regulations that may affect your dash cam, but all that can change once you arrive on the continent. Before you set off, read on to find out the rules for your holiday destination.

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Where is it totally legal to use a dash cam?

First, the good news. You can both own and operate a dash cam throughout any of these European nations without any restrictions:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Denmark
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Serbia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

However, things aren’t so straightforward everywhere. The following countries all have some sort of restriction on dash cam usage, ranging from the position of its installation to an outright ban:

Austria

Status: Banned

Using a dash cam in Austria is illegal, full-stop. First-time offenders will be slapped with a whopping €10,000 fine, with repeat offenders fined €25,000. In fact, it’s not even legal to own a dash cam. Be sure to leave yours behind if you’re planning to head there on your trip.

Belgium

Status: Legal, with conditions

Belgium is a lot more relaxed than Austria on the issue. You can both own and use one, but only for ‘private use’. What that means to drivers is that if you’re involved in an incident you’ll need to inform all other parties before submitting the footage as evidence.

France

Status: Legal, with conditions

French dash cam laws are largely similar to those in the UK, in that there are rules on where dash cams can be placed within the vehicle: it cannot obstruct the driver’s view. Like its smaller neighbour Belgium, France also restricts dash cams to ‘private use’ – in this case, that means that you can’t upload the footage to the internet. If you record any evidence, make sure that it goes directly to the police.

Germany

Status: Legal, with conditions

Germany may be famed for its delimited ‘autobahn’ that lets motorists largely speed at will, but it has still seen fit to place some restrictions on dash cam usage. Like France and the UK, it must be placed so as not to obstruct the driver’s view. In compliance with the country’s strict privacy laws, any footage shared publicly must have faces and number plates obscured (in fact, ideally they should not be recorded at all).

Luxembourg

Status: Banned

Head south from Belgium, and the rules don’t change all that much. While at least owning a dash cam is allowed in Luxembourg, using one is still totally illegal. Make sure it stays in the glovebox for the duration of your time there.

Norway

Status: Legal, with conditions

Norway is probably the mainland European nation with rules most similar to the UK’s. Its only regulation on dash cams is that it’s installed out of the way of the driver’s view.

Portugal

Status: Banned

It may be totally legal to use a dash cam on your drive through Spain to get there, but once you arrive in Portugal it is neither legal to own nor use a dash cam, so leave yours at home if you’ll be driving there.

Switzerland

Status: Legal, but heavily conditional

Saving the most complex for last, dash cam usage is a very muddy area in Switzerland. While they’re legal in theory, it’s all but impossible to get any use out of them while still obeying strict Swiss data protection laws.

For a start, they can never just be used for entertainment or documenting a journey – there has to be a legal purpose to recording. Then they must conform to the Swiss ‘principal of transparency’: it needs to be obvious that those being recorded are being recorded. As dash cams are discreet by nature, and other drivers are usually only aware of their existence after an accident occurs, that’s a box likely to remain unticked.

It must also adhere to the ‘principle of proportionality’. Given that dash cams record for the entirety of a journey, the ratio of important stuff being filmed to unimportant stuff being filmed will probably be extremely unfavourable. Hundreds of people, vehicles and buildings that have nothing to do with any incident (if, in fact, an incident even occurs) will end up being illicitly recorded.

If you’ve read all that and are thinking to yourself that it doesn’t sound as if it’s possible to use a dash cam in Switzerland at all, you’d be just about right. Keeping the roads safe is viewed as the responsibility of the police, and it would be for the best if you kept your dash cam disconnected throughout your travels there.

For more information on how UK law affects dash cam owners, read our comprehensive guide to dash cams and the law.

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