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HANS Hopes New Device Will Save More Drivers’ Lives

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 19 2012

Danica Patrick, who was involved in a scary wreck at Daytona earlier this year, is a HANS user. A new, more comfortable version of the HANS was unveiled on Thursday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Depsite the series of wrecks which took a number of drivers’ lives in recent years, and despite the fact that hardly a weekend goes by during which other high-profile drivers credit their ability to walk away from horrifying wrecks to the effectiveness of head-and-neck restraint systems, large numbers of drivers still refuse to use the systems.

Especially at venues where they may be needed most – local and regional short tracks.

Reasons for the refusals vary, but one of the main issues has been comfort.

On Thursday, HANS Performance Products, the inventors of the head and neck restraint, announced they are introducing an adjustable version of their system.

“Because it’s adjustable in five-degree increments, this new HANS will improve the fit and comfort for all

Danica Patrick climbs into here car with HANS in place. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

racers,” said HPP co-founder Jim Downing. “Our goal is to bring the award-winning safety of HANS to all drivers in any type of car, especially the weekend warriors who too often put themselves and their families at risk.”

The “HANS Adjustable” meets the SFI Foundation’s Spec. 38.1 for head and neck restraints. It’s compnay says it enables all drivers “to purchase a HANS with full confidence of a comfortable fit no matter what type of car or racing seat they use.”

Previously, customers ordered a HANS Device in a fixed angle according to the driver’s physical size and type of seating position in the car – such as an upright seat in stock cars or a reclined seat in open-wheel machines.

That resulted in less than comfortable situations. And it may have ended up endangering drivers who opted out of using the devices.

In racing, trends tend to filter down from above as drivers at the lesser levels of pro and amateur series mimic what the stars to.

That has not been the case vis a vis some safety advances. Not even after drivers like Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick emerged from wadded up hunks of metal which were, moments before, shiny sleek race cars and proclaimed they would have been in bad trouble had they not been wearing head and neck protection.

A recent study conducted by the Charlotte Observer found that racing deaths in the U.S. actually increased in the decade after Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s fatal accident at Daytona in 2001 due to fatalities on weekly short tracks and drag strips.

According to that newspaper’s study, which was released in 2011, there were at least 235 deaths in U.S. racing in the wake of the Earnhardt crash.

That was up from at least 217 deaths in the decade before Earnhardt died.

The data in the study contained deaths in all levels of U.S. racing – from premier NASCAR, IndyCar and NHRA events to dirt-track races. The study begins with deaths in 1990. It excludes deaths from youth go-kart, motorcycles, monster trucks, mud racing and racing schools.

“We believe the new HANS is going to create another revolution in head and neck restraints, especially for the weekend warrior,” said Downing. “For over a decade, the HANS has demonstrated its ground-breaking safety technology all over the world in all types of crashes, including multiple impacts and oblique impacts. The HANS Adjustable is another huge step forward. There’s no reason why every driver should not be wearing a HANS head and neck restraint.”

The HANS Adjustable is eligible for use in most U.S. racing series, Downing said. NASCAR, which conducts its own evaluations, currently has the HANS Adjustable under consideration for approval. After passing all the required strength tests, the new device is under final consideration by the safety committee of the FIA, the international sanctioning body.

In the years after Earnhardt’s death, which was caused by a wreck on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, a number of advances in safety have taken place. Things like SAFER barriers (aka soft walls) and cocoon style seats.

Neither of those things in themselves, however, have obviated the need for head and neck restraint systems which keep the head from lunging forward on impact.

And few local short tracks and few local drivers can afford the costs of SAFER barriers and customized carbon fiber seats.

The hope is the new, relatively inexpensive HANS Adjustable will keep drivers at all levels safer and their families happier.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 19 2012
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