Professional car racers have razor-sharp minds which enable them to react at blisteringly fast speeds. They may be the safest drivers on the road, but other factors are leading to driver deaths.
The National Association of Stock Car Auto Racers (NASCAR) has witnessed 28 driver deaths, the last one being in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt was killed in the Daytona 500 in front of his fans.
There have been no fatalities since 2001 after NASCAR harnessed technological advancements in safety measures such as:
- Roll bars
- Driving suits
- Seat mounts
- Window nets
- Air flaps
- The HANS device
The developments in professional car racing have proven hugely successful in making the sport safer for drivers.
That said, crashes are still inevitable and continue to happen due to the following common reasons…
The Race Track
Some race tracks are notorious for wrecks and they share one common element: they’re the oldest race tracks.
Darlington Raceway in South Carolina became dubbed “Too Tough To Tame” due to its asymmetrical shape with an extra-wide corner at one end. This makes tackling corners massively dangerous. Although it claimed 13 lives of drivers and support personnel, there have been no deaths since 1965.
The list of particularly fatal racetracks also includes:
- Riverside International Raceway, California
- Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Carolina
- Daytona International Speedway, Florida
- ISM Raceway, Arizona
Speed is the major cause of racing car accidents. The Bugatti Chiron, for instance, can reach 304 mph. Any wrong movement, however slight, can prove fatal in the blink of an eye.
When driving at such ridiculous speeds, the driver must resist g-force with his muscles. Such forces can cause serious injuries such as fractures or concussions. So, if a driver goes unconscious at 250 mph he’s going to end up in the wall.
The intense pressure that high-speed driving has on the body is incredible. The wheel gets extremely heavy, and the pressure intensifies as they tackle corners and bends at breakneck speed.
Racing car drivers must also physically cope with high temperatures.
A concussion is a brain injury not caused by crashes but by deceleration if it is too rapid.
Pre-existing Medical Conditions
Racing can bring the heart rate up to 180 beats a minute, so drivers need a strong heart literally as well as metaphorically.
In 2013, Allan Simonsen, died of a heart attack at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The immense stress of heat, g-force, and competitive tension placed on his body caused his heart attack.
All racing drivers must now undergo a mandatory electrocardiogram (EKG) every two years.
Tire blowouts and brake failure feature heavily in the reason racing car drivers veer off the track and straight into the concrete wall.
Issues such as throttle obstruction or an anti-lock braking system lock-out can also easily cause a racing car to spin out of control and hit the wall straight on.
Throttle obstruction can occur from loose bolts or screws that get wedged in the body of the car and reduce the car’s ability to brake properly.
When the anti-lock braking system fails it restricts the braking capacity so the car doesn’t decelerate efficiently enough.
Young drivers can take some flak from other drivers just for being so young. This antagonism can increase the chance of accidents. Older drivers often disrespect younger drivers, and they are more likely to target them on the track.
Equally, older drivers whose reaction times and fitness begin to fade are also prone to accidents. Once former champions can start to lose their reflexes and muscle strength, they should consider retiring on safety grounds.
Some drivers get aggressive and gnarly when driving. Competitive A-type personalities routinely anger easily if competitively challenged.
Aggressive drivers take more risks and intimidate other drivers. Risky maneuvers on the track can lead to fatal consequences as other drivers can lose control of their car.
Car racing can be as much psychological as physical and technical. Kyle Busch for instance is prone to cantankerous flares that put himself and others at risk.
Car racing is a hot sport. When we think of fire and racing, we think of Nikki Lauder. Racing car parts heat up rapidly so fire accidents are commonplace in car racing. The heat from the parts can get into the fuel tank and cause almighty explosions. This is why drivers must wear ultra-protective anti-fire gear.
Internal Organ Damage from Sudden Deceleration
When a driver ends up in a smash at high speed, the momentum at which he is hurtling is suddenly halted causing the head and body to fall back in the opposite direction. The speed at which this happens causes the internal organs to compress and cause organ damage.
The Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger died in 1994 from damage to his aorta due to deceleration causing him to crash. His death led to the reformation of the Grand Prix Drivers Association.
Unrestrained Head Movement
The HANS Device (Head and Neck Support system) was developed by Mercedes-Benz and introduced in 2003.
The device fits around the neck and clips to the driver’s helmet. Weighing only 200 grams, the neck support is made of carbon and Kevlar.
As every person’s collar bone is different, the device is custom-made for every driver. This breakthrough device is proven to reduce neck injuries as well as the force load on the driver’s neck.
In 2001, Bruno Junqueira escaped death when his car spun around and smashed into a wall at 200 mph. Thanks to the new device, he managed to walk away unscathed.
NASCAR now mandates that all racing drivers wear a HANS Device while racing.
There’s more than meets the eye with car racing, too. Professional car racers are endurance athletes of the highest caliber. They must have nerves of steel, razor-sharp reactions, invincible confidence, and world-class fitness. The racing industry continuously reviews safety measures to try to prevent more injuries and deaths on the racetrack.
The best Dallas car accident lawyers can ensure you get the right settlement if you’re involved in any accident at high speed. Always seek legal advice in the event of any serious road accident.