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Race Car Accidents

Racing accidents are especially tragic when caused by street racing.

NASCAR Safety Regulations do not always prevent accidents at race tracks. In 2001, Dale Earnhardt was killed in the Daytona 500. He was one of three drivers to die in racing accidents in nine month period. (The other victims of race car crashes were Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin). A truck racer, Tony Roper, also died in that time period. All these victims of race car crashes sustained massive head injuries.

Fans howled in protest and NASCAR took heed, instituting several tough safety regulations to make fatalities due to race car accidents less likely. Three of the safety regulations instituted are detailed below.

#1: The HANS Device

NASCAR mandated the use of the HANS (head and neck safety) restraint. The device protects the head and keeps the neck from snapping forward or backward in the event of a collision. The HANS device was available when Earnhardt was killed, but he chose not to use it because he claimed it felt too restrictive.

#2: SAFER Barriers At Oval Tracks

SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) Barriers absorb some of the force when struck by a fast moving car. The SAFER barrier not only minimizes damage done to the vehicle, it also makes it less likely that the vehicle will bounce back into oncoming traffic.

#3: Seat Belt And Seat Inspections

Although a broken seat belt was found in Earnhardt's car, experts later determined that his injuries would have been fatal even if the seatbelt had remained intact. Nevertheless, NASCAR mandated regular seat belt inspections.

Other safety measures that resulted from the deaths of Earnhardt and the other drivers included a focus placed on designing safer cars.

NASCAR's aggressive safety measures appear to have been effective. Although there have been thousands of race car accidents since Dale Earnhardt's untimely death, there have been no fatalities. In a sport as inherently dangerous as race car driving, that's a record to be proud of.

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