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View Full Version : Why you should wear a helmet support - PCA fatality at the Glenn



SharkD
08-04-2005, 03:54 PM
While I've seen many of the more experienced students and most of the instructors wearing helmet support "donuts" or even HANS devices, I've rarely seen novice and first-time students show up with or even show an awareness of them. I'm beginning to think that the club should at least strongly encourage their use by all students. (I don't think mandating their use is necessary, as yet.)

http://www.gforce.com/products/helmetacc/images/helmetsupports.gif

Dan Martin gave me the heads-up on an incident at Watkins Glenn last weekend. During a PCA school, a green group student, who was signed-off ran into a tire wall at ~70mph. While cause of death hasn't been officially determined AFAIK, it appears that he suffered severe neck trauma and no other damage. He wasn't wearing any sort of helmet or neck support... (Read the full post here, in an Audi webforum (http://forums.audiworld.com/s4/msgs/2069695.phtml) and more info on a Porsche board (http://forums.rennlist.com/rennforums/showthread.php?t=218703&page=1&pp=15).)

Starting at around $30, there's no real excuse for why every driver at an NCCBMWCCA event shouldn't show up wearing one (or something better -- including an SFI 38.1-rated head and neck restraint).

I'd hate to see something like this happen at a BMWCCA event (or any other event, for that matter).

David Hicks
08-04-2005, 04:01 PM
This is mostly hearsay, so I don't put a whole lot of stock in it but: The problem with the neck collars is that they don't do anything for neck extension injuries which are more dangerous and more common in motorsport accidents. I don't think they could do any harm though, so for $30 it's probably better than nothing.

SharkD
08-04-2005, 04:12 PM
Yeah, I agree -- an SFI 38.1 restraint is best, but asking a casual DE student who drives on a tracks 2-3 times a year, at most, to buy an $890 restraint that has to replaced within 2 years and requires a 5-point+ restraint is a bit much...

OwnedbyDuncan
08-04-2005, 05:30 PM
PCA student probably suffered and injury similar to what killed Dale Earnhardt Sr.and their drivers. Many years ago at the Glen early 90's maybe a NASCAr driver died of again a similar injury. PCA has had a couple of fatalities at the Glen over the yers if I remember correctly.

NCC does not mandate Snell SA rated helmets. It should. Along with all natural fibers and no leather shoes or gloves. Will long pants and long sleeve all natural shirts be required for the August school? Is it still a rule?

Most stock seats will not hold up during a severe impact.

Without a 5 or 6pt harness a Hans or similar device in useless because you are probably going to suffer other fatal injuries instead of a broken neck which the Hans prevents. I am trying to remember the medical term for the bone you break. It is a very small one.

And finally drivers' schools are dangerous. You can get hurt or killed. You can be driving at 7/10's and get caught up in someone else's incident or mechanical failure and as a result suffer a critical injury or die. Wrong place wrong time and not your fault. Drivers schools stats on when incidents occur are very interesting. it is scary how predictable these stats are.

Getting up in the morning is dangerous. Sheep herding trials are dangerous.
Life is boring if there isn't some danger in it.

Dave Apker

1996 328ti
08-04-2005, 06:23 PM
I'm more comfortable with a neck collar just because it reduces the weight of the helmet. We do not require long sleeves and long pants. It is suggested, not mandatory. I recall only one incident where a car had some flames underneath from the oil pan being sheared off. I always wear long sleeve shirts out of habit. I am not especially worried about fire. I'm more concerned about debris on the track. Safety is a concern for everyone. An incident can happen anywhere. An accident on the highway can be as horrific and we don't wear helmets and harnesses there. Perhaps we should.

There is an inherent risk in everything we do. All we can do is minimize the risk. Full cages, harnesses and racing buckets is not the answer.

Life is boring if there isn't some danger in it.Not necessarily. When I flew small airplanes any flight that was uneventful was a good flight.:D

SharkD
08-04-2005, 07:03 PM
All I'm asking is that the NCC suggest that students wear a helmet support of some sort in the HPDE paperwork/application, although I do agree with Dave that SA helmets really should be the rule (I thought that they were, but apparently M are okay).

1996 328ti
08-04-2005, 07:29 PM
All I'm asking is that the NCC suggest that students wear a helmet support of some sort in the HPDE paperwork/application, although I do agree with Dave that SA helmets really should be the rule (I thought that they were, but apparently M are okay).The Driving School Steering Committee sets the policy. Any member is free to make suggestions and I appreciate anyone's constructive involvement.

The committee consists of

Roy Morris Board Representative
Bill Shook Chief Instructor
Adil Desai Coordinator
Eric Carnell Instructor Representative
Doug Bonner Student Representative
I would suggest speaking with any one of them at the next driving school.
Some of their email addresses are on the administrative page of the website. I can supply any others you need. If you or anyone would like to attend the next DSSC meeting, I believe it will be in Sept. Lately it has been held in Tyson's Corner. Just contact Roy.

mlytle
08-04-2005, 09:56 PM
All I'm asking is that the NCC suggest that students wear a helmet support of some sort in the HPDE paperwork/application, although I do agree with Dave that SA helmets really should be the rule (I thought that they were, but apparently M are okay).

helmet supports like the ones you pictured in the first post are totally USELESS as safety devices. they are strictly for driver comfort to support the helmet from moving around in normal driving. they are far too soft to provide any restraint at all when faced with accident forces. many are not even sfi fire rated and just make a nice ring of fire around your neck if it gets to that point.

use these neck collars if it helps you drive better, but don't think you are any safer with one...you aren't.

get a proper head and neck restraint. hans are top of the line and require full harness, but there are much cheaper solutions that you can use with regular belts.

NoSoup4U
08-05-2005, 07:58 AM
there are much cheaper solutions that you can use with regular belts.

i.e., duct tape head to seat :D

OwnedbyDuncan
08-05-2005, 09:54 AM
Velcro on the helmet and the seat.:icon_eyes

woodym3
08-05-2005, 10:27 AM
helmet supports like the ones you pictured in the first post are totally USELESS as safety devices. they are strictly for driver comfort to support the helmet from moving around in normal driving.

Marshall, I've never considered the neck collar a support for the helmet. Maybe if someone had a real short neck. However I will continue to believe that it will help in some way in limiting the amount of head movement in an accident.

wolfgang20878
08-05-2005, 11:49 AM
:icon_asha FYI, read though the threads in the Audi forum, there are some good links to follow up on regarding different restraint devices and discussion as to what should be required at track events. I also remember reading that full-face helmets shouldn't be used if the steering wheel airbag is active.

mlytle
08-05-2005, 12:28 PM
helmet supports like the ones you pictured in the first post are totally USELESS as safety devices. they are strictly for driver comfort to support the helmet from moving around in normal driving. Marshall, I've never considered the neck collar a support for the helmet. Maybe if someone had a real short neck. However I will continue to believe that it will help in some way in limiting the amount of head movement in an accident. hi woody,
go to any vendor site for helmet supports (og racing for instance). the description for these things is all about them being comfort devices and driver aids in cornering. nothing about it being a safety device. squeeze the foam. way too soft to be effective in an accident. kinda like the difference between the pool noodle style roll bar padding and the hard sfi stuff. one is nice decoration that prevents bumping your knees getting in and out of the car, the other is designed to actually do something in a wreck.
-----------------------------
quotes from og site regarding several different manufacturers.Features: Exclusive high density 'compression spring' foam acts like a shock absorber for the head and neck Helps reduce neck fatigue For all types of racing Removable knit Nomex® sleeve One size with adjustable speedfit fasteners SFI tag included This 360 degree wedge-shaped helmet support offers maximum support during high G-force cornering. Velcro closure; Nomex fabric cover The anatomically designed collar with extended rear support features dual density padding to be firmer where the support meets the base of the helmet, but softer in the chin and rear areas. 360 degree design with Velcro closure at the front.
---------
safety device? nope. if it makes you feel good, go for it! but i would suggest replacing with a real restraint system. :)

1996 328ti
08-05-2005, 12:34 PM
The G-force is very spongy. The Simpsons are a bit firmer. I feel uncomfortable when I'm not wearing the collar. I don't think it will do much for me in the event of an impact but I do feel it reduces the weight of the helmet.

There was a time I wanted a roll bar. Now you guys make me want a cage!

SharkD
08-05-2005, 06:01 PM
Well, I run with a Simpson donut right now (ever since and including my 1st school last year), I don't expect it to save my life in a Dale Ernhardt style wreck, but I do think it can lessen the severity of a non-fatal injury. I think the reason that O.G. and the like don't sell them as "safety" devices is that they are less than likely to save your neck (literally) in a severe wreck.

Next year, rumor has it that NASA is going to require a 38.1-rated head and neck restraint... If so, then I've got to get some sort of heavy-duty system before I start SpecE30, but I don't like the fact that the HANS device ties you into the harness and the ISAAC system looks unwieldy. GForce's system looks reasonable, except that I don't like the GForce helmets I've tried... and even the R3 system, that it looks like I'm going to end up buying is really damned expensive (high demand, low-supply and mandated use are leading to $1,000+ devices that have to be replaced every two years -- seriously, who said performce driving was expensive?).

I don't think that the average B or C group student would/should be expected to drop $3500+ to heavily modify their car, drop in race seats, a harness, a roll/harness bar and a H&NR system. But suggesting that they try something that will at the least, limit the movement of their head/helmet in a minor-medium impact can't be a bad thing... I'll bring it up to Bill or Adil at Shenandoah.

Nick325xiT 5spd
08-05-2005, 06:51 PM
1) It seems that the guy's helmet wasn't secured properly.
2) SA rated helmets are no different from M rated helmets if you haven't got a roll cage. Excluding a little bit of fire protection. But if you need the fire protection difference and you're in a street car, you'd probably be better off dead.

mlytle
08-05-2005, 11:19 PM
Well, I run with a Simpson donut right now (ever since and including my 1st school last year), I don't expect it to save my life in a Dale Ernhardt style wreck, but I do think it can lessen the severity of a non-fatal injury. I think the reason that O.G. and the like don't sell them as "safety" devices is that they are less than likely to save your neck (literally) in a severe wreck.

Next year, rumor has it that NASA is going to require a 38.1-rated head and neck restraint... If so, then I've got to get some sort of heavy-duty system before I start SpecE30, but I don't like the fact that the HANS device ties you into the harness and the ISAAC system looks unwieldy. GForce's system looks reasonable, except that I don't like the GForce helmets I've tried... and even the R3 system, that it looks like I'm going to end up buying is really damned expensive (high demand, low-supply and mandated use are leading to $1,000+ devices that have to be replaced every two years -- seriously, who said performce driving was expensive?).

I don't think that the average B or C group student would/should be expected to drop $3500+ to heavily modify their car, drop in race seats, a harness, a roll/harness bar and a H&NR system. But suggesting that they try something that will at the least, limit the movement of their head/helmet in a minor-medium impact can't be a bad thing... I'll bring it up to Bill or Adil at Shenandoah.

didn't they estimate the head on velocity vector of dale's wreck at about 45mph? anybody exceed that in a driving school? the donuts aren't sold as safety devices because they are not tested or designed to be safety devices. if ncc was going to mandate donuts as safety devices, they better check with manufacturers directly to find data to support the percieved safety value, otherwise you are mandating something that will lead to an expectation of increased safety. if something happens and there was no increase in safety, well.....

curious about your comment regarding a hans tying you into the harness. what do you mean? issac is connected to the harness, but not a hans.

yikes, 3500 is a lot for school safety equip. 300 for a decent helmet and a couple hundred for a less expensive head and neck restraint should cover it.

mandating anything beyond helmets for de's is a tough call. de's are supposed to be about learning in your street car. maybe only require extra safety equip for advanced group, signed off drivers, or once a certain lap time is attained? dunno.

Nick325xiT 5spd
08-06-2005, 09:32 AM
You can't time, unfortunately.

IIRC the speed estimate was a lot more than 45MPH.

Personally, I'm still wondering about the benefits of helmets in cars without safety equipment. Especially since we now have airbags. It just seems like nearly all DE type crashes have a much greater chance of severely injuring your neck (in which case lots of extra weight strapped to your head is a BAD thing), and that pretty much any incident in which you'd need your helmet, you'd need the other safety equipment first, anyway.

Pinecone
08-06-2005, 11:01 AM
a) Pyrotec (formerly BellMotorsports) sells collars that are made of VERY firm foam and contoured to keep the helmet and head from moving much in any direction. These, IMO, are better than the typical donut. But none of these type devices prevents the hyper extension which has been implicated in Dale Ernhart's death. In this type of instance, the head tilts forwards, then the mass trys to fly out the windsheild pulling the head forward, stretching the neck.

b) The HANS does NOT tie to the harness. It is totally separate. The shoulder straps fit over the HANS device holding it down. When you release the harness, you are free to get out of the car. The Isaacs (if it is the one I am thinking of) DOES tie into the harness, and is not legal in SCCA since it violates the single point release.

c) HANS devices do NOT have any stated replacement requirement. They RECOMMEND replacing them every 5 years, the same as helmets. But most people probably don't know that SNELL recommends not using a helmet for more than 5 years.

d) You will rpobably find, that while M helmets are not tested to a roll bar shaped anvil, they would pass if made by one of the top manufacturers, Bell, Simpson, etc. I do know that Bell SNELL SA00 helmets meet SA05 standards, but they cannot be sold with 2005 stickers until October 1. So I bought a new SA00 for racing, figuring that I would be replacing it at the end of the 2010 seaon no matter what (see above on 5 year life). The helmet along with HANS was close to $1800 (had to go with a 30 degree one for the Spec Racer)

e) Nick, I agree with you, it doesn't make sense, same for autocross, and maybe even less sense. But then again, considering the email exchange I had with a past Chief Instructor about 4 pt harnesses, I would not expect it to make sense. :) Actually air bags would seem to prevent the Dale type of injury by keep the head near the body. But personally, I don't do any track events without a driver's suit, full face helmet, and gloves. I do forego the Nomex long underwear in a street car. I KNOW what serious burns mean, and it is NOT fun.

And lastly, no matter what you use or wear, it is a good idea to practice getting out of the car with all gear in place. In the race car, every time I come into the paddock, I hit the single point release and stand up in the car to fully free myself. This builds a reaction to getting out when needed. Have you ever gotten out of your car with eh helmet still on?

Nick325xiT 5spd
08-06-2005, 03:54 PM
I actually think that the arguments against a helmet with stock safety equipment are stronger than the arguments against a harness.

OwnedbyDuncan
08-06-2005, 04:07 PM
No cage or bar w/ 5 or 6pt harness big problems. In most cases the angle the belts are mounted at is wrong and can lead to back and neck injuries. Harness bars I just dont trust them. They aren't triangulated etc. ANd I have a SAbelt 6 pt harness setup I only used once after Bill Shook and I had a talk. I dont think in most cases a 4pt harness will stay put in an accident. Wander when if anyone checks expiration dates on harnesses during tech inspections either at the shop or track.

NCC about 10 years ago or so almost lost an instructor and a student who flipped there car going down the chute at Summit Point. If they had a harness or a harness with a harness bar they would have have suffered severe neck and back trauma and maybe died.

Someone correct me if I am wrong but aren't SA helmets tested for multiple impacts as oopose to M rated helmets which are only tested for one impact.
Chances are in a car there will be multiple impact.

I believe if you car is modified it should be given points based on modifications and speed potential. When you have accumalted a certain amount of points you have to have a cage or bar and other safety equipment to particpate in drivers schools. This will vary based on car ie a 2002 will need a heck of lot more points than a E46M3 or new M5 to reach the threshold. And SA helmets should be required. If you can afford the school and a BMW you can damn sure afford an SA helmet.

Nick325xiT 5spd
08-06-2005, 04:24 PM
SA helmets are tested for multiple impacts on a very small, sharpish object. If you've got objects like that in your street car, then it's incredibly dangerous to drive to work. M rated helmets will more than suffice against a stock interior.

I have an SA helmet, but I really don't see the point without myriad other equipment.

mlytle
08-16-2005, 11:36 AM
those who are interested in the neck collar debate may be interested in this thread on the topic on improvedtouring.com...

http://itforum.improvedtouring.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=5932

SharkD
08-16-2005, 01:06 PM
interesting/scary pic: http://www.isaacdirect.com/images/Donut.jpg

Apparently I was wrong on the replacement timeframe for the current HANS devices -- it was the early systems that HANS, Inc. wouldn't FIA certify if they were over 2-3 years old.

I guess I'll be heading down to O.G. next weekend for a HANS test fit.

woodym3
08-17-2005, 12:00 PM
those who are interested in the neck collar debate may be interested in this thread on the topic on improvedtouring.com...

http://itforum.improvedtouring.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=5932

Thanks for this Link Marshall. Now I won't feel so naked when I forget to wear mine. Or maybe I'll just save it for use on real cold days.
Woody

1996 328ti
08-17-2005, 12:27 PM
I still feel more comfortable wearing it but need to replace mine since it got switched with an instructor of mine and I got his old crappy one. :(

mlytle
08-17-2005, 06:16 PM
they are warm and comfy! that is what they are for..;-) i have one in the bottom of my driving gear bag somewhere leftover from my de days. think i used it last year as a pillow at the track!