MOSCOW -- A jeep apparently struck by lightning
. An old lady keying a car
. And a driver hurled from a KamAZ truck
who lands on his feet without a scratch after a collision with another vehicle.
These, along with hair-raising car crashes and fistfights between drivers, are just a sampling of the thousands of bizarre automobile incidents that have been inadvertently captured on video by Russian drivers and uploaded onto video-sharing websites.
The videos are a quirky byproduct of what has rapidly become a major fad in Russia -- the use of dashboard-mounted video cameras.
Motorists use these dash cams as a tool to help fight their corner against Russia's notoriously corrupt traffic police as well as against scammers trying to extort money out of drivers.
WATCH: A spectacular Russian road crash is recorded on a dash cam
The dash cams film and record virtually everything that happens around a vehicle, making them an essential accoutrement for Russian motorists. It's not surprising, therefore, that anticorruption activists have been singing their praises.
"You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam," says Aleksei Dozorov, an activist with the Blue Bucket Brigade
, a motorists' rights group that won fame by combating Russian officials' propensity to flaunt traffic rules.
"I tell everyone that they are absolutely essential," Dozorov adds. "They make you your money back many times over. God forbid there is a car crash or a serious road infraction that could cost you your license. If you record everything with the dash cam, as well as conversations with traffic cops, then it will save you money. In [Russia] this thing is simply essential."
Dozorov has every reason to pay homage to the 6,000-ruble ($191) dash cam. It has recently helped him elude what he describes as an unfair traffic ticket as well as a potentially large payout settlement.
Dozorov recounts one incident involving an inspector, which occurred months ago when police officers stopped his car. "He'd accused me of going through a red light," Dozorov says. "It was enough for me to say: 'I'm not going to argue. Let's have a look at the dash cam.' At that point the inspector said he’d probably made a mistake. He didn't even bother looking. He said sorry and left."
Dozorov likes dash cams so much, he bought himself two: one for his car and one for his scooter.
The latter paid dividends this past summer, when he was in a crash with a car while riding on the Garden Ring in central Moscow.
At first glance, Dozorov explains, the accident looked like it was his fault and it seemed he would have to pay roughly 30,000 rubles ($955) in damages. However, by using footage from his dash cam, Dozorov says he proved the driver of the car was to blame. As a result, he was awarded 33,000 ($1,049) in damages for his scooter.
Dashboard cameras have been marketed across the world. They have become particularly popular in Russia, although there are no statistics on the number of motorists who use the devices.
In addition to helping motorists avoid unfounded traffic fines and accident settlements, the devices are invaluable in combating scams. Dozorov says extortionists working in teams to create accidents and collect quick settlements have become an increasingly common problem on Russia's roads.
There is even an "autoscams" website called Avtopodstavka.ru, which details numerous types of schemes motorists should be aware of. According to the site, the gangs earn about $1,000 a day and it recommends that drivers purchase dash cams and study the various scams as a safety precaution.
One popular video posted on YouTube
depicts an alleged extortionist overtaking a driver and then deliberately braking in front of him, causing a small fender bender. The alleged scammer then leaps out of the car and shouts aggressively -- until, that is, he finds out that his victim has everything recorded on his dash cam.
He then hastily drives off before the arrival of the police.