Russian car crash videos are the Web's best reality TV

When a meteorite streaked though the Russian skies last month, millions flocked to YouTube to watch the video. The footage of the meteorite crashing to earth was spectacular and there was plenty of it—much of it shot from moving automobiles.

Why? Because everybody in Russia seems to have a little camera installed on their dashboard. Why? Because when it comes to accident liability, Russia is far from a “no fault” state, and the legal system—law enforcement in particular—have a less-than-sterling reputation. As a result, many Russian drivers resort to having on-board cameras to prove they weren’t at fault in the event of an accident.

These Russian drivers surely had no clue that the cameras would be a boon for jaded Western media eaters like me. The videos they shoot have everything you’d want in a motion picture: drama, surprise, comedy, tragedy, suspense, and of course plenty of violence. There’s no sex, but you can’t have everything.

It’s not just me. People around the world are eating this stuff up. It’s a reality show that actually shows some, well, reality. Just look at the hit counts on those videos. Those numbers no doubt spiked up after many of us saw the crash videos in the “related video” column on YouTube while viewing the meteor footage.

Is our interest in these videos just a form of xenophobia? If there was a need for a “crash-cam” on every dash on American roads would we get the same sort of stunning crash compilations that we get from the Russians? Or are Russians just really bad drivers? At least one YouTube commenter thinks they are:

what i learnt from this video:
- red light means go
- brake light means accelerate
- any lane is good
- drive faster in snow

I personally can’t vouch for where Russia ranks on the list of Worst Nations to Drive In (and I don’t really care where it does). To me, the videos seem to show a new, previously unseen Russia through the eye of that little camera sitting on everybody’s dashboard just waiting for a bit of mayhem to unfold within its view.

J.G. Ballard predicted that an upcoming “autogeddon” would be sparked by a dearth of parking places. But seen only through the YouTube, such an autogeddon seems to be happening now in Russia because of snowy roads, horrifically and/or comically bad driving, and maybe a little vodka in the glove compartment.

The humanist in you may cry out “Wait! These are people’s lives we’re talking about here.” Yeah, true, but most of the videos I’ve seen involve accidents that are not so violent that there may have been loss of life. Still, there is violence and mayhem, and I’ll admit I have a hard time pulling my eyes away.

Does that make me sick? Or just human? Both?

This story, "Russian car crash videos are the Web's best reality TV" was originally published by TechHive.

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