How NASCAR Safety Has Evolved Over the Years

NASCAR is one of the fastest and most dangerous sports as well, which is why so much money and time each year goes to improving driver safety measures. Over the decades, NASCAR safety has evolved quite a bit.

SAFER Is More Than a Word

The goal of NASCAR safety is to make the courses safer for the drivers, both while things are going smoothly and in the event of a crash. SAFER is more than just a word, though — it’s an acronym that stands for Steel and Foam Energy Reduction. Crews install this material in all the walls around the tracks, but you’d never know it until someone crashes into the wall at full speed. That’s when the steel and foam energy reduction barrier goes into action — it absorbs the majority of the kinetic energy of the crash, lessening the impact and protecting both the driver and the audience.

These barriers received the credit for saving the life of at least one driver, Michael McDowell, when he crashed into the wall and flipped down an embankment at the Texas Motor Speedway in 2008.

The goal of NASCAR safety is to make the courses safer for the drivers, both while they’re driving and in the event of a crash. SAFER is more than just a word, though — it’s an acronym that stands for Steel and Foam Energy Reduction. It’s installed in all the walls around the tracks, but you’d never know it until someone crashes into the wall at full speed.  That’s when the steel and foam energy reduction barrier goes into action — it absorbs the majority of the kinetic energy of the crash, lessening the impact and protecting both the driver and the audience.

These barriers have been credited with saving the life of at least one driver, Michael McDowell, when he crashed into the wall and flipped down an embankment at the Texas Motor Speedway in 2008.

They Just Don’t Shatter Like They Used to

Windshields and windows are often the weakest part of a car.  Safety glass has made these weak points safer in standard passenger vehicles. Layered glass prevents them from shattering into sharp shards, but even that isn’t always sufficient for the high speeds and powerful impacts that NASCAR race cars experience.

This is why race cars are beginning to use polycarbonate instead of glass for their windshields. It’s much more resistant to cracking and shattering than traditional windows. While it is true that polycarbonate is more susceptible to divots and scratches than glass, a sheet of film over the polycarbonate windshield easily prevents this. The covering can also easily be replaced.

This is the same sort of material that they use to make bulletproof glass, so it’s the perfect substance to stand up the speed and crashes of NASCAR races.

Ambulance Issues

As with any dangerous sport, there should always be an ambulance and medical professionals on hand in case of an accident or injury.  Unfortunately, NASCAR ambulances have often either been in the wrong place or too slow with their response times. This came to a head at a race in September when an ambulance was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The emergency vehicle blocked a pit road and affected the outcome of the race, almost costing driver Matt Kenseth his spot in the driver playoff.

Other drivers have complained about slow ambulance response, which in a high-speed crash could mean the difference between life and death.

This is still one of the things that NASCAR tracks around the country are working on. Whether it’s better organizing ambulance placement or ensuring that the ambulances on call know where they need to go after an accident, NASCAR and first responders need to work together to ensure the safety of drivers after an accident.

As long as there are high-speed races, there will be crashes. It’s up to NASCAR to do everything in their power to make sure their drivers are safe, even if that just means padding the track, so they have something softer to crash into.

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