Personal Injury Thoughts On The Daytona 500 Crash, Part 4
In our final post in this four-part series, we will look at some of the ways that Daytona and NASCAR can take big steps to prevent future similar crashes. To start with, this crash is not unusual. Nearly 50 spectators have died at racing events between 1990 and 2010 alone - it is obvious that racing is a dangerous sport to watch and that operators have some obligation to make their venues safer.
One Indy Racing League crash in 1999 injured spectators when a tire flew into the crowd. Compared with the February crash that injured 28 people, this accident was relatively minor - nevertheless, it prompted big safety improvements. Race officials raised the minimum fence height from 15 to 21 feet. NASCAR follows similar rules.
Those rules might not be enough. Some observers are suggesting that venues will have to revisit their safety practices. Based on early reviews of crash footage, debris might have flown over the 22-foot barrier. If this is the case, then race organizers might need to invest in even higher barriers to adequately protect crowds. Similarly, if the debris cut through the barrier, then a stronger material might be necessary.
Other experts are questioning whether the racing league needs to change where it places the grandstands. Currently, spectators sit a mere 10 feet away from the track. If the grandstand had been situated farther back or raised to a higher height, debris would not have posed nearly as much of a danger to the spectators.
In the wake of the February crash, authorities and race officials are promising a thorough and careful review of what went wrong. Hopefully this investigation will lead to meaningful safety improvements to prevent future personal injuries and wrongful death cases.
Sources: Reuters, "Lawyers weigh possible legal fallout of Daytona crash," Casey Sullivan, Feb. 25, 2013; Charlotte Observer, "Daytona crash could trigger track changes to protect NASCAR spectators," Jim Utter, Feb. 25, 2013