Who's Going to Teach us about Safety? (5 mini read)
Forenote: I decided to write this article in hopes of gaining feedback from my fellow motorsports community members. I'm currently writing this in my high-rise Manhattan apartment, which smells of rich mahogany stocked with vintage wine, while a white African Rhino-bust hangs over my marble fireplace. (Cue the self-reflection music as I re-dip my bald eagle feather quill into the ink...)
There’s no denying the fact, that as new cars gain technology, they gain speed and performance as well. Hell, in 1995, the RX7 had 255(ish) horsepower, where-as the new Civic Type R pushes 302hp. In 2003, the E46-M3 had 333 horses, and the newer ones are now creeping around 430hp. Keep in mind, for us enthusiasts, stock-trim is typically not how we drive them on the track. A simple upgrade of track pads, Nitto NT01's, and a coil-over kit easily changes the game for quicker lap times. It's evolution..we become quicker..Unless you're my Miata.
HOWEVER, it appears as though drivers, especially in the autocross, time attack, and track day segment don't really seem to have caught up with safety gear technology as much as they have with their car's technology. But I admit, I don't blame them. It’s a heck of a lot sexier to shop for the latest performance gains than it is to read about the latest SFI / FIA rated shoes and gloves. Have you seen the latest advances in aero that time attack cars are running? It's certainly not an effort to make them slower... How many have invested a portion of their "speed" budget into making sure their safety gear is at the same level?
So I ask myself, why is it that we still see drivers wearing motorcycle helmets and a pair of cargo shorts? Or a sleeveless tee and paint-balling gloves? It's like fingers on a chalkboard when I see someone wearing a single layer karting suit with Nike sneakers..there's no point bro..Which brings me to my main topic: WHY aren’t we more keen on our safety? Perhaps these decisions may not come down to the individual's deliberate choice, but rather a lack of knowledge about the motorsport safety market in general. I admit, it wasn’t until 10 years ago, when I had no idea what the hell a Snell or SFI rating was. Could it be lack of education in our community? Perhaps..But I should not blame the driver as an individual, but rather, blaming the safety companies for not providing the best educational services. When was the last time you were at a track event, and someone stood up during the driver's meeting to explain WHY YOU NEED a Snell rated helmet? Exactly. It's usually on us to figure this stuff out.
Sanctioned organization like SCCA, NASA, and Porsche Owners Club have strict, mandatory safety requirements set in the rule book...even Lemons too. But for the majority of track day drivers, it's pretty much "learn as you go" with this sort of stuff.
We need to teach ourselves and each other WHY it's important to invest in a good helmet, and what makes certain materials safer than others. We must spread the word on the importance of head and neck restrains, harnesses, and even nomex underwear. I admit, we're not competing wheel-to-wheel, so the chances of an incident are often quite lower, but we've all seen what happens to the cars and drivers that are less fortunate to make it home.
As a community, we need to do a lot more work in getting the word out about what is going to protect a driver. But that's often easier said than done. Track day divers typically focus about one thing: going fast. And hell, I don’t blame them! After all, that's why we're all here. Life doesn't have a pause button, especially when you've over-corrected, and are now heading toward the infield wall. Read, read, read..
What can I do to help?