The state Assembly passed a bill Monday that would allow video recorders to be installed on vehicles' dashboards, raising concern about drivers' privacy.
Currently, state law prohibits dashboard devices that may obstruct a driver's view. Patrol cars have had the dashcams for years, of course, and have documented police chases and a variety of other incidents.
The bill is supported by companies that hire teams of drivers. They want to ensure their employees are driving safely and use the cameras to help determine fault in an accident.
The bill's author, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, says companies that use the recorders in other states have reduced their accident claims by 80 percent.
The devices could record a vehicle's speed, where it travels, whether the driver wore a seatbelt and when the brakes were applied before an accident.
Fletcher says parents of teenagers or companies that hire drivers can use the video data to monitor risky driving behavior and to coach drivers to adopt safer habits.
The bill, AB1942, passed the Assembly 49-0 and now moves to the Senate. It says the device would record audio, video and G-force levels in a digital loop, but "saves video only when triggered by an unusual motion or crash or when operated by the driver to monitor driver performance."
In a letter to Fletcher, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed privacy concerns. The group suggested that the bill specify that the data belong to the vehicle owner and that an employee should be given the opportunity to refuse to berecorded.
Those changes were not incorporated into the bill, but ACLU lobbyist Valerie Small Navarro said she would continue to work with lawmakers as the bill progresses.
"It's one thing if you've got your teenager in the car and you're concerned about his or her driving, but I think it's a different thing if it's an employee or it's an adult," Small Navarro said. "You want safety precautions, but on the other hand, an individual's sense of autonomy and privacy has to be protected."