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NASCAR goes exclusively with HANS restraint

Author: Ed Hinton

Publication: Orlando Sentinel

Date: January 04, 2005



After nearly five years of controversy and experimentation with other head-restraint systems, NASCAR will require the HANS (head and neck support) device exclusively for drivers in the coming season.

The rival Hutchens restraint, allowed as an alternative since 2001, has been banned from all major NASCAR divisions and regional touring series because it failed to meet standards in testing last October, sanctioning body spokesman Mike Zizzo said Monday.

The tests were conducted by the California-based SFI Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization which issues and administers standards of performance for automotive and racing equipment, Zizzo said. They did a performance test, and it [the Hutchens] didn't pass.

The tests involved use of head restraints on crash dummies mounted on sleds, which were crashed at various angles to measure effectiveness in preventing violent movement of the head and neck.

The HANS, for years the consensus favorite of racing safety scientists, was already being worn by the overwhelming majority of NASCAR drivers. But a few -- most notably Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart -- continued to use the Hutchens last season because they found it more comfortable.

The HANS' inventor, Dr. Robert Hubbard of Michigan State University, expressed more satisfaction with the new set of standards than the new specification of his device.

When I conceived of the device, I thought that everybody should wear one, Hubbard said in a telephone interview. That's been over 15 years ago, and I haven't thought of a better way to do it, and I don't think anybody else has either. Zizzo said NASCAR might reconsider the Hutchens if its developers make some changes to their current setup and it passes SFI.

A series of fatal accidents in NASCAR brought the HANS into the headlines. After the deaths of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin Jr. of basilar skull fracture -- an injury caused by violent, unrestrained movement of the head and neck -- in 2000, engineers from Ford Motor Co. and General Motors pleaded with NASCAR drivers to begin wearing the HANS.

But the device met driver resistance until icon Dale Earnhardt died of the same type injury in the 2001 Daytona 500. Most drivers then rapidly donned head restraints, and NASCAR mandated them in October 2001. Since then, there have been no driver fatalities in NASCAR's major series.
 

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The SFI meeting between Sanctioning bodies (Nascar, IRL, OWRS(CART), SCCA, and Rally-America) and Head-and-neck device manufacturers at PRI was very interesting.

There's some pretty unhappy campers amongst the manufacturers.
 

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Lost....We're not lost
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>The SFI meeting between Sanctioning bodies (Nascar, IRL,
>OWRS(CART), SCCA, and Rally-America) and Head-and-neck device
>manufacturers at PRI was very interesting.
>
>There's some pretty unhappy campers amongst the
>manufacturers.

Has anyone used the Simpson restraint system? Did Simpson have representation at the SFI meeting? Thoughts please....
 

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don't cut
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The cost of rallying has gone up, but this time it's worth it. I won't get into a car now without a HANS, and I wouldn't recommend anyone else race without one either. My last crash at LSPR was by far the hardest hit I've ever taken, yet I walked away with absolutely no soreness or pain. Usually I hurt for days afterward. IT WILL NOT AFFECT YOUR PERFORMANCE ON STAGE. You don't even notice it. It takes an extra few seconds before the stage to hook up, but that's the only inconvenience. There is absolutely no reason for people not to use one other than cost, and $1000 ain't much compared to a hospital bill, or worse yet a funeral. Plus it's a one time shot as the things will basically last your career.

I don't care how slow your car is, or how much you say "I won't push that hard". Remember, Earnhardt's forward velocity component was something like 40mph. If you rally, you should have one.

Dennis Martin
[email protected]
920-432-4845
 

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>There is absolutely no reason for people not
>to use one other than cost, and $1000 ain't much compared to a
>hospital bill, or worse yet a funeral. Plus it's a one time
>shot as the things will basically last your career.
>

I'm not debating the value of head and neck restraint devices, nor am I completely familiar with their construction, but it seems a bit of a stretch to me that these will ultimately be a "one time shot" for your career.

I would guess that in the early days of SFI certifcations of seatbelts, there might not have been age restrictions in place requiring their replacement on a regular basis either. Also, if a competitor is encouraged to replace seatbelts after every shunt based on what might or might not have happened to the integrity of the belts, is a HANS-type device really that different?

Again, not debating the worth. Just the statement as to one time cost.

Kent Gardam
 

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RE: 25% discount if you order now

You guys crack me up.

I've decided I'm getting back into rally as a safety equipment supplier. My device will be called "JeniCoon".

JeniCoon will be a carbon fiber, egg shaped, Styrofoam lined cocoon. Inside the Styrofoam lining will be a lining of Nomex, and inside liner the cocoon will be filled with AFFF foam. No need for driving suit... for that matter no need for any clothing. Just slide yer silly butt into the cocoon (taking care not to let the AFFF up yer crack), and away you go.

Pricing:

$100,000.00 minus 25% if you order now.

If you want the ejection cocoon version of JeniCoon, then add another $100,000.00.

Take care not to pull the ejection handle if you are upside down in a pond.
 

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>I don't care how slow your car is, or how much you say "I
>won't push that hard". Remember, Earnhardt's forward velocity
>component was something like 40mph. If you rally, you should
>have one.
>
>Dennis Martin
>[email protected]
>920-432-4845

A Nascar representative at the head & neck conference reported that there were 7 fatalities attributed to basal skull fracture last year, on local short tracks in the U.S., all 1/2mile or less.
 

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"Go fast then bah bah bah"
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I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr Hubbard last January and talk about the device and its application in rallying. He understood the basics about the sport and helped me to understand the benefits of the device. I was interested in using it since I broke some vertabrae in my neck in the military and the device would provide some additional protection for that damage.

I also talked with Dr Hubbard about the effective life of the device and he stated it wasnt "life long". HANS does not have an inspection program so if you are in bad accident with it you should replace if it is deformed or damaged. They do recommend a users follow the SNELL 5 year rule since the deivices are made out of the same materials as helmets.

"When should I replace my HANS® device?
Snell recommends replacing competition helmets every five years. HANS® devices are made with similar high-performance composite materials and resins. They are also exposed to similar environments. Snell's five-year rule for helmets is only a guideline, but it is one that we think users should consider when reviewing the integrity of a HANS® device"
http://www.hansdevice.com/faq.html

Also take a look at this picture
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/racing/01/08/bc.car.newmancrashes.ap/

Notice what Paul has on before the accident last Saturday.

I wore mine in all of the events we where in 2004 and I'm won't compete again without having it on.

-Tim
Wazoo Racing
http://www.wazooracing.com/
 

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Why short track racing so dangerous

Although the speeds are low, short track racing has walls which because of a smaller radius, are more likely to be met at a right angle by a race car.

The really dangerous crashes are the ones where the resulting deformation (from a right angle crash) to the car is nearly even across the front (or side).
When a vey large area of the car is exposed to the impact all at once, the impact event(time) becomes very short. So, even though the differnce in speed may be less than a big speedway crash, the time duration is very short, so the acceleration (decelleration?) and resulting forces go way up.

If it weren't for injuries (or worse) resulting from intrusion, hitting a tree might be better than hitting a wall, because a tree (unless it's very large) deforms a smaller area of the car and lengthens the event (time).

Throw a lump of soft butter at a knife and it deforms and slows down.
Throw a lump of soft butter at a spatula and it stops.

Don't interpret this as reasons why or why not we need certain safety equipment, it's a theory on why short track racing is so dangerous.
 

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>A Nascar representative at the head & neck conference reported
>that there were 7 fatalities attributed to basal scull
>fracture last year, on local short tracks in the U.S.


Only 7? How many races were there? What is the total number of competitors in all these races?

Rally recently killed off 3 competitors and 2 spectators in 3 or 4 years. For the 25 years before very few died during actual competition.

Several months ago someone mentioned that there had not been 1 death in PRO RALLY prior to the requirement for roll cages (or was it roll bars?).

The problem in rally IS NOT the safety equipment! The problem IS the increasing speeds and competitor's false sense of safety. If people truly want to save lives, then slow down the cars/stages!!! Anything else is a feel-good smokescreen that will continue to INCREASE the body count!

Who's hands are covered with blood from the past few years is open to debate. What happens now is up to you guys.
 

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>
>I don't care how slow your car is, or how much you say "I
>won't push that hard". Remember, Earnhardt's forward velocity
>component was something like 40mph.
And what was the speed in the OTHER direction?

Generally, we don't smack into walls and then while against the wall get smacked by several more cars.

How many North American Rally crew have died as a result of basal skull fractures in the last 25 years?
>





John Vanlandingham
Seattle, WA. 98168

janvanvurpa (at) f4 (dot) ca

Vive le Prole-le-ralliat!
Vive Le Groupe F!
 

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jvl asks:

>
>How many North American Rally crew have died as a result of
>basal skull fractures in the last 25 years?
>>

I don't know. I don't care. I don't want to be the first data point. With my insurance hat on, this is what is known as a very low frequency event, but a very high severity event.

I wear one. I have since I saw the videos. ymmv

press on,
 

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don't cut
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>Generally, we don't smack into walls and then while against
>the wall get smacked by several more cars.
>
>How many North American Rally crew have died as a result of
>basal skull fractures in the last 25 years?
>>

>John Vanlandingham
>Seattle, WA. 98168
>

With all due respect John, I think the last few years we've been living on borrowed time. Increases in technology, tire performance, and the addition of notes have increased the average stage speeds. What was good enough twenty years ago isn't necessarily enough anymore.

Beg, borrow, or steal a copy of my incar from LSPR. It was on Speed, shouldn't be too hard to find (otherwise I can send it to you). Watch me hitting the tree. Realize that this could happen to even the best of drivers, it's a rally inevitability. Now ask yourself, would you want to go through that accident WITHOUT a HANS device? At that very moment, one millisecond before you hit, how much would it be worth to you?

I WILL NOT support making the HANS mandatory. This is America, if people wanna be stupid and unnecessarily risk their own life, so be it. But I will HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend one to any person considering rallying.


Dennis Martin
[email protected]
920-432-4845
 

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>How many North American Rally crew have died as a result of
>basal skull fractures in the last 25 years?
.....
>John Vanlandingham


Who knows...who cares? Logic and reason have nothing to do with this "feel-good" HANS nonsense. They'll wear their HANS, feel safe, and die from some other injuries. Because? Because, they will go faster and faster. They are race car drivers, remember?

If the cars/stages are slowed down they will be rally drivers again, but they prefer to think of themselves as race car drivers with their 105 octane, FIA cages, and other such stuff.

When was the last time a U.S. rally driver was saved by a driving suit? Answer: never. So why do they have to wear suits? Because, it is a feel-good rule having nothing to do with safety.

Logic has been supplanted with hemorrhagic brain lesions.
 

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I'll have to weigh in heavily on the side of heads restraints. There are a number of reasons, but the main ones relate to my own personal expereinces, waaay back in '79 when I destroyed my first car, and also in '92.

Incident #1:
It was 45 mph impact just behind the left B pillar at about a 60 degree incidence angle in to a Pennsylvania oak tree. I can still vividly recall my left shoulder hitting the door panel (the stock seats provided no real lateral support, so my torso slid sideways) and my head flying over at a sharp angle out the window. My head hit nothing, it just extended out into space. The side glass had shattered and dissappeared a fraction of a send after impact, so anyone who believes that the side windows will help your head or hands is being very foolish. I have no immediate recollection anything right after, beacuse I blacked out and came to about 5-10 seconds later. My only injuries were a very sore right neck, and a small scratch on my left hand.


Incident #2:
Head on into a a tree at <20 mph. This happened in Maine winter in '92. The harnesses worked well, the stock seats were a non-factor. This was a simple, direct, straight-ahead crash. My neck was very sore for weeks afterward, and I do believe that I may have suffered some long term minor damage in my neck; I have had on-and-off-again discomfort in my neck. The speed here wan NOTHING compared to what it could have been, yet the injury was real and very scary.

NOW as for why this is important:

Several factors that do not exist in today's rally cars helped me survive with such little injury in incident #1:
1) The stock seats actually helped in this one situation. The fact that my torso leaned over to the left greatly reduced the neck shock and the neck bending angle. Just try it yourself: lean a bit to one side or another and see how much less neck bending occurs. (I am NOT advocating going back to stock seats; I was slow to adapt them and now see how much they can help in rolls and more direct side impacts and in helping the belts do their job.) My point is that the use of racing seats does not allow much torso movement, and thus increases the stress on the neck; this is a definite change that has increased neck stress.
2) My helmet back then (a good Bell helmet) weighed about half of a typical helmet today. That's the case with all helmets now vs then. This weight increase also puts more stress on the neck.

So, I would rate improvements in seats, harnesses, and helmets to be the main factors in the need to improve neck protection. I was in a 100 HP Opel in these crashes, so the danger existed without AWD and 300+ HP. We have helped ourselves in some areas of safety, but inadvertantly created a serious increase in danger in another area. Why this is so important is the fact that this area of increased body stress, the neck, is so often fatal or paralyzing.

To answer the question of fatalities in rally due to broken necks (which I think are now more precisely identifed as the basialar skull fracture), I beleive we have had 2, maybe 4. Woolf and Whittaker's deaths were published in one account as being due to broken necks in their accident. I am of the belief that the recent tragic deaths in Oregon were also quite possibly due to this. If 4 is the right number then that is half of the competitor fatalities in the US. And if you consider the very real possibliity of a paralyzing injury to the neck (which will make you a quadrapalegic), then that's all the more reason to be very concerned over this.

Jens, you know I have remained your good friend (despite the popularity of Jens-bashing!), but I have to say you are off-base on this one. The increased speeds of cars have exascerbated this, but my own direct experiences should counter any assertion that this is due only to more powerful cars; the danger has been here all along. I do think the danger has increased to the other safety improvements we have implemented. I also think this is the bigggest next step we can make in REAL safety improvements; for example, I would dump any further fire extinguisher improvements to allow folks to spend their $$ on neck restraint improvements.

I think that it would be of great real benefit for a lower cost alternative to be developed. The cost of the HANS, particularly the non-standard ones at $1200 each, is going to stop many folks from adopting this. Despite my belief in this, I still have not purchased HANS devices. I have to admit that it is cost..... and I have to admit I am running a very real risk. The probablity may be low, but the potentail price at occurance is VERY high, due to the nature of the area injured.

I would like to understand the failure of the other neck restraint devices to see of another combination of devices would help. I do have window nets installed and have had them on the Starion for 5 years for the very reason of neck injury and my '79 experience; I put them in right after my son starting co-driving with me at the age of 16 years, 3 weeks. I KNOW from direct experinece that will be of help in side impacts, and am looking at good ways to install center nets too. Now, I need to work on the frontal neck support.

Regards to all,
Mark B.
 

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>I am of the belief that the recent tragic deaths in Oregon
>were also quite possibly due to this.

But we don't know, because accident information is kept secret.

>Jens, you know I have remained your good friend (despite the
>popularity of Jens-bashing!), but I have to say you are
>off-base on this one.

I don't think there is anything in the rule book that says friends have to agree.

Regarding crashing: I have never crashed, or gone off. Why? Because I drive within my and my car's abilities. In my 911 that was middle of the pack. In my RX-7 that was at the back of the pack.

Clint Eastwood said it best in one of the Dirty Harry movies, "A man's got to know his limits."

If people want to use HANS devices that is fine with me, however some people WILL die as a result of using them. Why? Because, they will have a false sense of security and therefore drive faster.

The answer to fewer body bags is to slow the cars and the stages....SIGNIFICANTLY! Anything else is "feel good" rules that allow the rules makers to absolve themselves of responsibilty.

Stage speeds are way too fast regardless of who is driving. Rich guy's bodies are just as fragile as those of the poor.
 

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>Stage speeds are way too fast regardless of who is driving.
>Rich guy's bodies are just as fragile as those of the poor.
>
I'll agree with you here Jens, but I'm just not sure we'll have a solution for that one. Our stages are fast, that's it. Despite the fact that our country is huge, we just don't have a great selection of rally roads currently available. I think every organiser would love to slow down his rally, but in the end he has to work with what he has. The alternative is no rally.

We can't blame the cars, because afterall we are using the same stuff the rest of the world does. We can't blame the drivers for doing what they are supposed to do, try and get down the road as fast as possible. And we can't blame the organizers, who are doing the best with what they have. So in the end we just have to accept it, or quit. I prefer to accept it, and then try and rally as safely as possible.

Dennis Martin
[email protected]
920-432-4845
 
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