Meteorite makes star of Russian dash cams

A meteorite streaks across the Russian sky, captured by one of the country's ubiquitous dash cams. AP Photo

If you watched videos of last week’s meteorite over Russia, you might have wondered why so many appeared to be taken from inside cars. As this Washington Post story explains, it’s because Russians frequently mount cameras on their dashboards to help prove who was at fault in case of an accident. And why is that a concern? Because of Russians drivers and road conditions.

I learned this during a recent trip to Sochi, Russia for a story about the lead-up to next year’s Winter Olympics there.

At one point in my trip, I needed to switch from a hotel in Sochi to one in the city of Adler, about 13 heavily congested miles away. The main road leading from Sochi to Adler not only is typically clogged in traffic, there are frustratingly few turnoffs that allow you to turn around or cross over to the other side.

My cab driver got so frustrated that after he realized he had missed the turnoff for my destination, he opted not to drive several miles ahead to the next exit, turn around via an underpass and fight his way back through the traffic. Instead, he shoved the taxi in reverse and backed up approximately 200 imposing yards along the highway’s almost non-existent shoulder as cars whizzed past going the opposite direction.

That was alarming enough. But then he came to a truck parked on the shoulder. Only slightly daunted, he waited for an ever-so-brief break in the traffic and then backed into the oncoming lane and around the truck.

While talking on his cell phone.

I learned this was not an isolated case later when I saw another car doing the exact same thing. I also noticed that drivers did not pull over for ambulances or police cars.

And if you still need to understand the need for dash cams, check out this video a friend sent me after I got back from Russia. Pay special attention to the vehicle around the 1:35 mark.