What to Do When You Wreck a Racecar

Not the best shot, but it was one of the few that didn’t include fire or tire smoke.

Racing a car or a motorcycle, while fun, is never quite safe. If you do it long enough, you will surely find yourself taking a vacation off the pavement. Before you end up hitting a tire wall or get your roof sanded off when you flip, you should know what to do in the event of a crash. This also applies to if you’re driving around in your daily life.

Stop the car as quickly as you can! If you’re in a drag car, pull the parachute or floor the brakes if you don’t have a chute. If you’re in a road course car, floor the brakes. If you know that you can’t save it, you might as well crash as slowly as possible. Brace your head against the head rest. Pull your thumbs away from the steering wheel so if it kicks back at you when you land or stop, you won’t have reshaped your knuckles.

As the dust settles, take a deep breath. Can you still breathe? If you can, awesome! Figure out where you landed, but you should figure out if you are on fire first. Normally, the safest place to be is in the car, unless you are on fire. Then you want to get the hell out of your car. If you aren’t on fire, you still have some choices. If the car is still moving, or able to move, try and get it off the track, or to a corner stand where a corner worker can help you out. If the car can’t move, cut the fuel and power, and wave your arms around so safety personnel know you’re alive. If you decide to drive the car off the track, make sure you don’t dump fluids all over the track. Watch your gauges, check your mirrors for smoke and other cars, and if you have a sneaking suspicion that something is going to leak or drag, just wait for the safety crew to come to you. Stay off the racing line or dragstrip groove if you can.

Off the track, things can be just as hard. You might have had a bad crash, but thankfully not bad enough to send you to the hospital. Somehow, the track crew was able to extricate your car from the catch fence or tire wall. Watch them if you can, so they don’t cause further damage. That sounds silly, I know, but it will be easier on you if you can rebuild the car. People don’t come to racetracks expecting to crash. Most tracks will allow owners to store the car for up to a week if need be. While all tracks are different, that’s usually what you can expect. For the most part, the track will cover the cost of repairing the broken tire wall or whatever you hit. Yes, it can be rough, but gather any in-car video or data and go home. The big decisions will come the next morning.

Expect to be sore the next day. Many people have more than just money poured into their race car. Damaging or totaling a car can feel like losing a dear friend or a family member. I know this because I still dearly miss my minivan. Just know that beating yourself up won’t fix the dents. Get out into the garage or driveway and take stock. If it’s just body damage, you can get back onto the track in a couple of weeks. If you damaged the chassis or suspension, you might want to look into a new car. Suspension can get replaced, but it can cause massive problems with the chassis. Depending on the value of your car and the frequency of your racing, check out racing insurance before you have to do a full rebuild.

Many racers say that the best way to get over a crash is to win the next race. It will remind you just how much fun it is to race. Just get out on the track and have fun.

What to Do When You Witness an Accident

Car accidents can be very scary.  I know – I’ve been in a nasty one myself.  My mom and sister were very nearly in one the other day, and it got me thinking about what you should do when you witness an accident.  Here’s all you need to do:

  • Pull over to a safe spot – the last thing you want to do is block traffic, unless you absolutely have to.  Pull off into a driveway, turnout, center divider, median, etc.  Put on your emergency flashers – DO NOT PUT ON YOUR BRIGHTS!!!  They will only blind other motorists, causing further crashes!
  • Take a deep breath!  Before you call 9-1-1 or do anything else, take a deep breath or two.  Having a clear head before going into anything remotely scary and stressful is a good idea.
  • Call 9-1-1.  If you’re the only person in your car, either call 9-1-1 yourself or flag down another car and have them call 9-1-1.  If you have another person with you, have them do it.  When whoever has made the call is finished, have them come back to you.  Tell them before they call, “Call 9-1-1 and report back to me!”  Be forceful, but don’t yell.  Just say it in a firm voice.
  • Set flares if you have them.  Flares are visible, and people will slow down when they see them.  Set them strategically – about 100 feet away from the accident (if there is not debris that far).  This will give people enough time to slow down and/or stop.  Setting two flares is good – unless it is at a four-way intersection.  Set one flare for each direction in that case.
  • Go to the car(s) involved.
    • If the occupants of the vehicle(s) involved are still in the car, and cannot get out, do not attempt to open the door for them.  It may be wedged shut, but more importantly, they can be seriously injured.  Look at it this way – if their door is so badly damaged that they can’t get out, don’t try to help them!  They are probably injured, and trying to help them might cause further injury and possibly death.  If they have a spinal injury, and you open the door and pull them out, they could become completely paralyzed.  If you are trained in vehicle extrication, do your thing.  If you haven’t been, try to comfort them.  Oftentimes, a window (or more) has been shattered.  Don’t put your head in – there is loose, sharp glass that is waiting to cut you.  Come into their view of sight, and tell them that help is on the way, and you will be back to check on them in a minute.  Check on them every couple of minutes.
    • If the occupants of the vehicle are out of the vehicle, try to calm them down.  They will be likely be freaked out and hysterical.  It’s scary to avoid an accident, but it is frightening to be in one.  You have to maintain your calm.  Showing signs of being upset will only make matters worse!  Tell them that emergency response is on the way, and that they need to take a deep breath.  Take charge of the situation.
      • In the case of a multiple-vehicle accident, if all of the people involved are able to get out of their cars, get them calm before anything else.  When they are calm, have them exchange insurance, take photos, etc.  Be there to help them.
  • Introduce yourself.  Don’t tell them you are a police officer, firefighter, EMT, EMR, or paramedic unless you are one!  Misrepresenting yourself is bad in any scenario, but lying through your teeth to a scared person is just dumb.  Tell them your name, and that you are here to help.  Talk to them firmly to get your point across.  Don’t be mean or scary.  Just speak to them in a tone of voice you would use when your dog isn’t listening.  Don’t yell, but make yourself heard.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, don’t be nicey-nicey either.  That won’t work.
  • If and when you have time, take some pictures.  You don’t need a lot; just enough to have for the record if it goes to court.
  • Look for anything dripping.  If there is dripping gas, get the occupants OUT OF THEIR VEHICLE!  This can cause a fire – most cars are still running.  If a fire starts, use a fire extinguisher or get people away from the area quickly!  Try to keep the fire from spreading if it starts.  It doesn’t matter if people have spinal injuries – MOVE THEM!  It’s better to be paralyzed than roasted alive.  If it is something red or green, it’s just transmission or radiator fluid.  Neither of these are good, but they won’t easily spark a fire.  Just try to keep hot things away from them.  If there is oil, not the best thing in the world.  It’s probably not going to catch fire, but it’s still a cause for worry.
  • Get somebody to direct traffic.  Flag down another motorist or have your passenger do it.  Let a few cars through at a time.  If people don’t stop, let them go.  You won’t have enough resources to stop them and yell.  Besides, it will do no good.  All it will do is get them angry and possibly start a fight.  You don’t want that.
  • In many cases, a police officer or fire truck will respond to the scene within a matter of a few minutes.  Update them on what happened, give them your name, and ask what you can do to help.  They will be pre-occupied from the moment they get the call, but they will tell you what to do.  Sometimes, you will just stick around and watch, and sometimes you might be able to direct traffic, take cervical-spine precautions on somebody, or do something else that is useful to efforts.  Don’t leave the scene unless you are told to do so.  If you have to go, tell the fire captain/police officer/EMT or paramedic that you have to go.  They will ask you for your phone number so they can ask you what happened later.
  • Above all, keep your cool!

That’s car accident witness 100.

Recall Alert!

This is a very important recall.  I also know that I missed publishing a post Friday.  Sorry about that.  But, this will grab your attention.  It’s very important.  I hope that you are not affected by the recall, and my wishes go out to those who are affected by the recall.  Michelin, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of tires for cars, trucks, SUVs, and just about anything with wheels.

Today, Michelin announced that they are recalling over 100,000 Latitude Tour, X Radial, and LTX M/S2 tire families in a massive effort to track down just 2500 tires that are at risk of suffering a blowout that could possibly lead to a crash, severe injuries, and possibly death.

Here’s the reason behind the recall:  Three different families of Michelin tires could possibly have a small perforation in the sidewall.  This small perforation could lead to the loss of pressure while driving.  In some cases, it could lead to rapid tire failure, which could result in a crash, injury, damage to the vehicle, or death.

Michelin will contact owners of the tires and certified Michelin dealers by the end of the month.  The tires will be affected and replaced, free of charge.  Owners of the affected tires can contact Michelin at 855-851-4951.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 tires are affected by the recall, but Michelin says that only 2500 of these tires may actually suffer from the sidewall perforation issue.  The affected tires (which were manufactured in late 2012-early 2013) are:

Michelin LTX MS/2 in 275/55R/20

Michelin LTX MS/2 in 265/65R/18

Michelin LTX MS/2 in 265/60R/18

Michelin X Radial LT2 in 265/65R/18

Michelin X Radial LT2 in 275/55R/20

Michelin Latitude Tour in 255/60R/19

Michelin Latitude Tour in 255/70R/18

Please cooperate with Michelin, as they are only trying to help you.  Remember, if you are concerned, you can always contact Michelin about your concern about the tires.