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Do you operate a fleet of vehicles and worry about accidents and insurance costs? A tiny digital video camera, called DriveCam, can help you cut your insurance bills.

The folks at Cloud 9 Shuttle, an $11-million shuttle operator in San Diego, can attest to that. During morning rush hour last fall, a Cloud 9 van became the third vehicle involved in a three car pileup. The investigating police officer used the video from the DriveCam (mounted behind the rearview mirror) to help determine who was at fault. The video exonerated the shuttle driver.

The $795 device is the brainchild of Gary Rayner, who experienced his "eureka" moment thanks to a 1996 hit-and-run road-rage incident he fell victim to. He later thought, "If only I'd had a video camera!" Rayner launched San Diego-based DriveCam Video Systems in 1998 and today is its chief technology officer.

DriveCam uses "looping memory" to capture everything the driver sees and hears. The G force from an unsafe driving situation -- such as a hard turn or a collision -- automatically triggers the device to save the 10 seconds immediately preceding and following the event. Cloud 9 vice-president Mike Forbush says that in the case of last fall's accident, DriveCam saved the company more than $8,000 in insurance payments. "Plus, it wasn't a black mark on our insurance record," he says.

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