If, like me, you were sitting dumbstruck watching Youtube videos depicting a raging ball of fire falling out of the sky in the early hours this morning, you may have been equally dumbstruck by the sheer number of eyewitness videos. There are videos of the object exploding into a bright orb, there’s dramatic footage of the moment when the shock wave blew out windows, but above all, there’s a crazy number of videos shot from the dashboards of cars.
Are all Russians trainee meteorite hunters? Do they have their dash cams installed to chase down the next tornado Storm Chasers-style? Despite being perfect for capturing a rare fireball, the fondness Russian car owners have for dash cams has nothing to do with creating perfectly-timed videos of rampaging space rocks.
Lawlessness and police corruption are the driving force behind getting a dash cam installed. According to an Al Jazeera English exposé last year, chaos on Russian roads is the reason why there are an estimated 1 million Russian cars sporting dash cams. New York blogger and Russian native Marina Galperina wrote a captivating piece about the dash cam culture in her home country, arguing that they are “Russia’s last hope for civility and survival on the road.”
The conditions of Russian roads are perilous, with insane gridlock in cities and gigantic ditches, endless swamps and severe wintry emptiness on the backroads and highways. Then there are large, lawless areas you don’t just ride into, the police with a penchant for extortion and deeply frustrated drivers who want to smash your face.
In an environment like this, it’s little wonder that having an unblinking eye on your dashboard is essential for your morning commute.
Also, inadvertently, the dash cams that caught the Russian meteor in the act have become a critical tool in understanding where this object came from and how it caused so much damage over a populated region.