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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Crashing while racing do you believe the driver has any chance to think he/she won’t survive it?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (22134 points ) July 19th, 2014

Racing (at least cars) has become very safe over the decades when you consider the increased speeds and the horrific accidents that happen. When a driver is involved in an accident do you believe they have any time to think ”This is the one I won’t walk away from”? Do you think the driver that was the catalyst to an accident where another driver did not walk away from will be haunted by that fact, and thus affect their driving or how hard they race in the future?

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23 Answers

hearkat's avatar

Yes to both. I’ve never raced on a track, but I love driving and have been in a couple accidents. The time my car rolled over, I was upside-down and said “Holy Fuck” and started wondering how bad it would be. Thankfully the guard rail stopped the roll and I was Bart injured. The guy who hit me had no injuries, but looked far worse than I did because he went nauseous once he saw my car start to roll at the thought that he killed someone.

Even though racers are professionals, they feel worse because they’re professionals. Add the fact that they know their competitors and their families, and that makes it even harder to live with knowing that your actions led to their injury or death.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Generally in auto racing the wrecks that look the worst are far from it. The car might be a pile of scrap afterward, but they’re built to do that. They’re built to crumple. That absorbs the impact of the crash, dissipating the energy throughout the body of the car, away from the driver. By contrast, say, Dale Earnhardt’s fatal wreck didn’t look bad at all. But his car came to a sudden halt from, what, around 190 MPH, and there was little damage to the car itself, meaning that he, not the car, took the impact of the wreck.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Darth_Algar But his car came to a sudden halt from, what, around 190 MPH, and there was little damage to the car itself, meaning that he, not the car, took the impact of the wreck.
Aren’t NASCARs built more like tanks with full roll-cages, not to fold or crumble because they are not going above 200 mph?

hearkat's avatar

I watched the Dale Earnhardt crash, and since it happened just as the race ended, we turned off the TV and went about our day because it looked like nothing. When we turned on the news that night, we were stunned to learn that the crash had killed him – his neck snapped. They have special helmet tether now to prevent such extreme whiplash. The NASCAR cars do have modifications to reduce flips and spins, and don’t crush quite as easily as the others, but they do still have some impact-absorbing designs, too. I’d bet they made some changes to the cars too, after #3 crashed.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Good pilots are fully focused on minimizing the severity of the crash to the very last.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

A professional driver doesn’t have time for such negative thinking. You are always trying to think one step ahead in an effort to avoid death.

jerv's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central That’s actually a flaw in NASCAR vehicles. Other form of racing design their cars so that the parts of the car other than the driver’s compartment fly off or crumple in order to dissipate the kinetic energy of a crash by snapping metal instead of bones and destroy themselves instead of their occupants. Same for regular passenger vehicles.
Impulse = force / time. Airbags and crumple zones are there to increase time, thereby reducing impulse; the force transmitted to the occupants, thereby reducing injury, preferably at least to non-fatal levels.
By contrast, tanks actually can injure their crews merely by cruising on a bumpy road; they’re too tough, and thus transmit every jolt to their crew.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Yes, the cars used in NASCAR do have roll cages, but they have impact absorbing crumple zones as well.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I once had the unfortunate opportunity to sit through a counselling session for club members and friends of a skydiver (my instructor) that died in an accident. I don’t know how true it is, but the ambulance officers running the session said he was likely thinking more about how to fix the malfunction than about the impact. I imagine the same would be true for a driver – they would be thinking about how to correct a spin, or how to brace themselves for the impact, rather than the consequences. I remember an interview once with a driver who was also team owner in the BTCC, and he said when he crashed that rather than thinking “this is going to hurt”, he thought “this is going to be expensive!”

SecondHandStoke's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

Modern race cars and high tech performance cars are designed to shed body components as a way to direct stored energies away from the driver or cabin shell.

With every part that separates from the car the energy the driver must endure is lessened.

In severe accidents the car is rapidly converted into a protective escape cell built in the vehicle’s center. With the best designs this high tech tub is a load bearing unit on which all other components are attached.

These cars are designed to disintegrate as apposed to deform (the methods described in comments above) to provide protection.

jerv's avatar

@SecondHandStoke I think that it may be slightly more accurate to say that it’s more ablation than disintegration; a crashing F1 car will shed parts to protect the driver just as the old Apollo capsules would burn their ablative heat shields up to avoid burning astronauts.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

@jerv Agreed.

I would also change the word “energy” to “forces” in my comment’s second sentence. Damn Fluther’s time limit on editing.

As far as ASSCAR being flawed it goes well beyond the car’s structural design. Anyone racing converted road cars (touring car racing for example) is also depending on roll cages for safety as well as enhanced rigidity.

NASCAR’s woe’s include mandated limits on progressive technology. Pushrods in the 21st century? WTF? No wonder GM was decades behind other manufacturers in providing their customers with overhead cam engines. The Mustang only very recently lost it’s rear live axle.

Just doesn’t compute to me.

ucme's avatar

A definite no to both questions.
Race drivers act on pure instinct, with lightning fast reactions, both mental & physical.
When they see a heavy crash is unavoidable, they take their hands off the steering wheel & place them either side of their helmet. Hands can be easily broken with severe jarring upon impact when gripping onto the steering wheel.
Also, they relax their bodies knowing the car will absorb much of the energy, leaving them relatively safe in the impenetrable “cockpit”
As for a tragic accident involving a teamate or friend, they move on, crashing is inevitable in their chosen sport, can’t hold back in an all or nothing environment.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I remember an interview once with a driver who was also team owner in the BTCC, and he said when he crashed that rather than thinking “this is going to hurt”, he thought “this is going to be expensive!”
It must have been a very slow developing crash. The crash linked I can’t imagine he had much time to think of anything; one moment he is driving and then flipping in the air to have his cockpit slammed against the barrier, I don’t think he ever seen it coming. He certainly had more time than Greg Moore, (but not by much). I wonder if Greg Moore was thinking ”Oops, this will cost ¾ of a million bucks”, more than thinking ”Holy S***!!!”?

@ucme When they see a heavy crash is unavoidable, they take their hands off the steering wheel & place them either side of their helmet.
If they are blindsided and do not see the crash coming, one moment they are racing, the next cartwheeling or airborne, then what?

jerv's avatar

@SecondHandStoke Converted cars use a rollcage around the driver and fuel cell; NASCAR uses a full tube frame that’s almost as rigid around the engine as around the driver. But given how they fought to try keeping Toyota out (despite Toyota making more cars in the US than Ford; I guess Canadian-built cars are more American…), I think that so long as people consider NASCAR to be racing, there’s going to be shitloads of misconceptions. Personally, I look at FIA-sanctioned racing (WRC, F1…) and Touring cars rather than 1950s engines pushing tube frames around in a circle.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^ True. I wasn’t going to get too technical in this thread.

That said: NASCAR is truly the Special Olympics of motorsport.

Technology, courses, you name it.

jerv's avatar

@SecondHandStoke Don’t insult the Special Olympics :p

SecondHandStoke's avatar

@jerv

You Sir, are going places.

ASSCAR: They found a way to make 200mph boring.

ucme's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Then they’re a passenger, not much to do other than to ride it out & trust the integrity of the car to minimise injury.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@SecondHandStoke That said: NASCAR is truly the Special Olympics of motorsport.
Bahahahah Bahahahaha Special Olympic s of Motorsports…..NASCAR is as NASCAR does….my mama told me that.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central It was indeed a slow developing crash. I’d have to hunt through all my old magazines to find it, but from memory he was avoiding another car that came unstuck, and went into a flat spin across about 30m of turf before hitting the wall. It affected both sides of the track, not unlike Kimi Raikkonen’s crash at Silverstone a few weeks ago.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ You are speaking of the BTCC driver, and not Greg Moore or Jeff Krosnoff, right?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I am. There’s no need to describe a crash you’re already aware of ;)

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