As the Daytona 500 kicks off another NASCAR racing season at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging officials to increase their safety efforts to reduce fatalities and injuries on the track.
"In light of last year''s deaths of drivers Kenny Irwin, Tony Roper and Adam Petty, we are urging NASCAR and racing officials to implement new safety products and initiatives such as soft walls to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future," said Samuel Gualardo, CSP, ASSE president. "We have over 32,000 members across the United States and in 64 other countries committed to making workplaces safe. Many are big NASCAR fans and racers themselves and many work in the entertainment and hospitality industry."
In a letter sent to NASCAR President Mike Helton Jan. 8, Gualardo applauded NASCAR''s pioneering inventions in the area of safety resulting in many life-saving products and systems now utilized by the general public such as fire safe/retardant protection suits; the self-contained gas tanks; the vehicle roll cages; use of head-and-neck restraint system and their research into aerodynamic body changes aimed at slowing speed.
Gualardo also applauded NASCAR for mandating last August that NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams have their primary and secondary throttle shafts equipped with an independent travel stop to impede the throttle plates from opening as well as the addition of an auxiliary ignition on/off button aimed at disconnecting power to the ignition system.
Noting NASCAR''s suggestion to form a committee to address safety issues, Gualardo offered ASSE as a resource.
"We are concerned with the safety of NASCAR drivers and crew," said Gualardo. "Especially following the deaths of Roper, and Irwin and Petty who died months apart from head-on crashes into the wall at New Hampshire''s International Speedway. There have been too many tragedies during races that could have been prevented by utilizing new safety initiatives such as soft walls and other products for better protection."
"The investment you [NASCAR] make in putting up protective walls and implementing other safety features will quadruple in worth over time as you reduce fatalities and injuries and increase respect and credibility for the sport, especially as you expand your markets," Gualardo told NASCAR.
by Virginia Sutcliffe