Thursday, 28 November 2013

Meanwhile in Russia sets a dangerous UK precedent

HOPE you’ve enjoyed a pleasant week’s motoring, bereft of bumps and scratches. Meanwhile, in Russia, footage of a fishtailing Lada has been uploaded to YouTube for your evening entertainment.

You can’t have failed to notice the sheer quantity of clips being uploaded to YouTube of Russians crashing things, badly filmed by dashcams of family saloons slogging their way through a snowdrift somewhere in Siberia. This compelling concoction of spins, rolls and crashes – think of it as sort of You’ve Been Framed meets Police Camera Action, with added Moscow profanity – has proven so popular that petrolheads over here now happily use #meanwhileinrussia as a hashtag on Twitter.

If you don’t know what a hashtag is, get your children to fire up YouTube and enjoy someone else’s motoring misfortune to while away a few idle minutes. It is weirdly compelling for the same reason that you’ll always slow down on the motorway to gawp at a car crash.

Yet what worries me isn’t these clips’ weirdly addictive edge. It’s that the things which make them possible – those crude, dashboard-mounted cameras – are becoming increasingly fashionable over here too.

Already I know of one court case which involved a lorry driver whose dashboard camera proved an unfortunate meeting between his cab and motorcyclist wasn’t his fault. As a result of this and the increasing appetite for the insurance companies to have our every movement monitored – black boxes, anyone – dashboard camera sales are booming in the UK. You might even get one under the tree this Christmas.

While the idea behind them has an appeal – film your drive to work, so you can prove it was the prat in the Audi A3 who drove into your front bumper at 40mph – I can’t help but wonder if we’re unintentionally creating Channel Four’s next comedy series for them, free of charge.

At the moment at least, there’s precious little to prevent these clips escaping into cyberspace, where spotty teenagers will be able to compile them into amusing ten minute videos, which will amuse office workers in Moscow endlessly. The clips will be just as morbidly compelling, but with fewer errant Ladas involved. Being involved in a crash, for whatever reason, is frightening enough, but knowing it’ll sit on YouTube for the rest of eternity or be forever repeated on Britain’s Best Car Crashes is something else altogether.

Meanwhile in Russia, for now, has a certain crude ring to it, but Meanwhile in Formby is a scarier prospect altogether.

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