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Better Late than Never
By Jan Bazen

NASCAR has finally gotten with the program and mandated the use of head and neck restraints for all drivers. It's just a shame that so many drivers died before NASCAR decided to put in the rule book. I don’t know for sure if it would have saved any of their lives, but I do know that the use of head restraints in itself, would not have killed them.

NASCAR is also interviewing people for the position of full-time medical liaison. This person will attend all Winston Cup events and maintain health records of all drivers. This should help with continuity of care when a driver is injured. Once again, this position should have been created years ago, but better late than never.

NASCAR is also reviewing applicants for a full-time accident investigator. Wouldn't it be nice if that position was only needed part-time or not at all? However, accidents in this sport do and will continue to occur and an investigator is needed.

Jeff Green, defending NASCAR Busch Series Champion, feels so strongly about the use of head and neck restraints that he offered to purchase one for any driver that could not afford to purchase one themselves. I admire Green for his willingness to help other drivers not as fortunate as himself. He also stated that after this offer was made, some drivers purchased the safety restraints and came to him for assistance in their use and fitting.

Just as Green feels strongly about the use of head and neck restraints, Tony Stewart feels just as strongly against the use of the restraints being mandated. Stewart claims that he has claustrophobia and after trying several times to wear the two types of restraints now offered, still feels uncomfortable wearing them. While I can sympathize with Stewart’s concerns, I still feel like one of the restraints should be able to be adjusted to fit his needs.

Some drivers were hesitant to use the restraints originally for fear of being kept alive with the neck left intact but the brain damaged. These fears are very relevant.  Drivers understand that although you can restrain the neck and head, there is no way of developing a safety device to keep the brain restrained during these crashes. The brain is suspended in spinal fluid and will continue to bounce inside the skull from the impact of the crash. This bouncing, known as "coup-counter-coup", can cause all types of brain injuries, many with long term effects. It is this type of injury that all drivers fear. Many of the disabilities can be overcome with time and therapy, but recovery can go on for several years. However, if the injury is serious enough, permanent disabilities or death can occur. Many drivers say they would rather die quickly than be left with permanent impairments. Most drivers realize that safety must come first before any other concerns.

Just as seatbelts have saved many lives, I also believe that the use of neck and head restraints can save lives in some crashes.

I feel this mandate should be in memory of those drivers recently lost due to closed head injuries: Blaise Alexander, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin, and Tony Roper.

email Jan Bazen

Jan is aN RN who lives on the North Carolina coast with her husband, three children and her dog. When not watching or reading about NASCAR,  she enjoys fishing...any kind of fishing.  She also enjoys gardening and reading.  Although Jan is new to the sport of NASCAR, she was exposed to NASCAR from the early, tender age of 5 by her older brother, Fred, who has always been a diehard NASCAR fan. Jan welcomes any comments or opposing views.  You can contact her by clicking on the North Carolina tag above.

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2001 Car Guy of Benchfield
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