NASCAR to install black box recorders on race cars
Wednesday August 22, 2001 |
ATLANTA - After a six-month investigation of Dale Earnhardt's death, NASCAR has decided not to require drivers to wear head and neck restraints, but it will try to improve safety by installing "black boxes" similar to those used in airplanes.
"We have committed to the installation of crash data recorders," NASCAR president Mike Helton said yesterday. "Such devices will help drivers, owners, manufacturers and NASCAR study how impacts affect drivers and cars."
Earnhardt was not wearing a head and neck device when he was killed in a crash on the final turn of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18. Use of the devices has dramatically increased since then.
Among other findings released at a news conference, a researcher said Earnhardt's seat belt broke during the wreck, but did not immediately say whether it played a role in the seven-time Winston Cup champion's death.
Dr. James Raddin, a director with San Antonio-based Biodynamic Research Corp., said he found the broken belt during his study and ruled out that is was cut by rescue workers as they tried to remove Earnhardt from the battered car.
"The physical evidence is clear," said Raddin, who showed a blown-up photo of the belt Earnhardt was wearing. "This was not a cutting of a belt afterward. This was a belt that separated under load."
Helton said the stock car racing organization will commission a study on restraint systems for drivers to take a closer look at seat-belt strength. But NASCAR will not mandate the use of the head and neck restraints.
"We are pleased that a majority of Winston Cup drivers now use them," Helton said. "But we are not completely satisfied. We have intensified our efforts with drivers, equipment manufacturers and outside experts with the goal of helping all drivers find a system in which they feel comfortable and safer."
In mandating for next season the installation of "black boxes," which will only record data in cars, NASCAR is following the example of CART and the Indy racing league.
Ford has been supplying the black-box technology to the two leagues for several years in an effort to better understand the forces in crashes. Until now, NASCAR had resisted using the boxes on its cars.