Improvements in Auto Racing Safety Mean Fewer Accidents, Less-Satisfied Fans

Brian Vickers Crash - Las VegasNASCAR races around the country have gone a remarkably long time without a serious crash. Some races have recently gone hundreds of laps without even a yellow caution flag, which requires drivers to exercise caution or slow down due to a hazardous condition on the track. Some observers have credited new technologies, including improvements in aerodynamics, with fewer crashes and, therefore, fewer injuries. At the same time, fans report discontent with the situation, and attendance has declined. While improvements in safety and a reduction in racing car accidents would seem to be a favorable goal, the Associated Press went so far as to call it a “fan’s nightmare.”

The AP reported last week that racers at NASCAR’s Sprint Cup had gone more than nine hundred miles without a crash. Out of the last four Sprint Cups, three were entirely free of accidents. Overall, races have had a third fewer caution flags compared to last year. All of the recent crashes reportedly occurred at one race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia on April 1. Fans have reportedly reacted by staying at home in droves, and by complaining loudly when they do show up. The stands at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, for example, were reportedly half-empty for the race on March 18. All of this led champion racer Jimmie Johnson to note something that may have already been obvious to many fans and observers: that crashing is more important than racing for some NASCAR fans.

Racing observers have cited both technological changes and a self-perpetuating safety trend as possible causes for the recent bout of green flags, which signal safe track conditions. According to USA Today, one driver said that cautions sometimes “breed more cautions” by slowing down the overall pace and giving cars fewer chances to crash. This could mean that, over time, the amount of crashes will return to the expected level, but other factors may be in play as well.

Aerodynamic improvements to the cars, which help with speed and mobility, may also keep the cars from colliding at high speeds. One driver said that aerodynamic improvements make it difficult for cars to get close to one another, as air currents push them away from each other. Whether this effect is enough to actually prevent accidents is a matter for physicists to discuss.

Car crashes and injuries present an interesting legal question, since they occur in a different setting than ordinary car crashes. Crashes are, to an extent, an expected risk in NASCAR and other forms of auto racing, and drivers do not necessarily have the same duty of reasonable and prudent care that a driver on the street might have. A racing driver has a duty to follow the rules of the sport and behave safely, within the parameters of the competition. A driver who breaches that duty could be liable for injuries. More importantly, perhaps, is the role of products liability in auto racing. Racing depends on a extensive set of specialized equipment to keep the driver safe, and any defects in that equipment could be disastrous.

The Washington, DC automobile accident injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen help people injured in car accidents to recover their just compensation. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Up to 25% of US Car Crashes Caused by Distracted Driving and Gadget Use, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 12, 2011
Preventing Red-Light Running Decreases Washington DC Car Accidents, Says Police Chief, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 23, 2011
Will The New NHTSA Rule Prevent Passenger Ejections During Washington DC Car Accidents? Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, January 13, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Brian Vickers Crash – Las Vegas’ by Jared Smith [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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