* Russian dashboard cameras catch first images of meteorite
* Pervasive use due to crime, corruption on Russian roads
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, Feb 15 (Reuters) - It is no coincidence the first videos that captured the images of a meteorite breaking apart over central Russia on Friday were shot from drivers' dashboard cameras.
The small video cameras, fixed to the dashboard or rear view mirror of a car to film oncoming traffic and the road ahead, are immensely popular in Russia because of motorists' fears about the corruption, violence and insurance fraud schemes that can make driving in the country a nightmare.
"It's the little thing that can prove the truth," said Dmitry Isaev, 35, a Moscow motorist with a dashboard camera in his car. "There are so many conflicts on the road, and it's often the one thing that can prove your point to the police."
Dashboard camera footage appeared remarkably quickly on the Internet and television on Friday showing the meteorite hurtling through the sky and exploding over central Russia.
Footage shot on the cameras is already an Internet staple although usually showing feats such as motorists driving half-wrecked cars, running other automobiles off the road or, in one case, threatening other drivers with an axe.
One video that spread across the Internet last year was a five-minute montage that showed bypassers throwing themselves against cars on purpose in what it said were attempts to collect money through insurance. http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=c12_1349902324
"Policemen tell people that if they want their case to stand up, it's best to get a dashboard camera," said Isaev.
Dashboard cameras have also produced the first images of other dramatic incidents, including a Russian airliner sliding off the runway in late December and smashing onto a highway near Moscow, killing five people.
Russian roads have a bad reputation. According to Trafficsafe, a British-based road safety organisation, 28,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in Russia in 2012.
It said 13,000 accidents were caused by drink driving.
The popularity of dashboard cameras may also be connected with popular tales of corruption among Russian traffic police, regularly cited by independent pollster Levada as one of the least trusted institutions in the country.
Most Russian motorists can say how big a bribe they would expect to pay to escape punishment for traffic violations - from not wearing a seat belt, to running a red light.
Russia was ranked 133rd place in the world for corruption in 2012 by Transparency International, on a par with Honduras and Guyana. (Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Jon Hemming)