Behind the wheel, confidence is key to staying in the zone because there’s no time for “what-ifs” when you need your skill and experience to carry you through. However, when your event is over and you’re out of the driver’s seat, it’s not a bad idea to think about how to safely handle a crash.
If you drive long enough, sooner or later mental preparation is going to come in handy if you are faced with a situation that could lead to a crash. Even if you’re a positive person, take a minute to think about these what-ifs before you get back in the driver’s seat.
- You’ve just crashed into a tire barrier and the trackside safety personnel are hurrying over
- You’re at top speed and the car catches fire
- You roll the car and you’re upside down
What would you do? Unless you’ve thought about it beforehand, you may get out of the car when it’s not safe or freeze up when staying belted in the car could be wrong move.
1. Know the Track Rules and Procedures
First off, know the rules and procedures of the track. Those rules are in place to keep HPDE drivers safe. Flaggers, recovery crews and EMTs all have their procedures. Let them do their jobs and follow any instructions they give you. Immediately after the crash, look for the nearest safety personnel. If you have a window net, put it down. In a street car, you can wave a thumbs-up. Both let track personnel know you’re conscious.
2. Stay in the Car Unless It’s on Fire
It can feel a bit counter-intuitive to stay in your car, fully buckled in. After a typical crash, most people want to get out and assess the damage and meet the help that’s arriving. But with other cars flying by—and potentially driving off the track themselves—you want to be inside the car, not on the track or grass where you could be hit. Staying buckled in with all your safety gear and helmet on is also the rule for most HPDE track events.
3. Know How to Handle a Fire
There’s one big exception to staying buckled in. If your car catches fire, it’s often safer to bail out. But what if you catch fire at speed or it’s difficult to escape quickly? It could be precious seconds before you can get stopped and bail out, which is plenty of time to get burned. Instead, focus on the fire first. Know how your fire suppression system works. Sit in your car and practice finding the button instinctively without looking. If you’re driving a street car without fire suppression, your biggest goal is to get the car stopped and get out of the car as quickly as possible. If you can, pull the car near a corner station and off the track.
4. Practice Quickly Getting Out of Your Car
If you do need to get out of your car, you will probably need to do it in a hurry. Practice sitting in your car with all your safety equipment on and fully belted in. Practice with your eyes closed since you might have trouble seeing if there’s fire or smoke. Think through the order you do things, choreographing the fastest process to get out and clear of your car. Some series have a time limit you must meet to compete. You’ll want to beat that limit.
At a track day, you want to focus on driving the best you can drive. Taking the time now to practice for those not-so-positive “what-if” situations allows you to be prepared for the worst.
Along with being prepared to safely handle a crash, it is also important to know that most auto insurance policies do not cover your car on the track. Learn how to check your policy for exclusions. If your policy has exclusions for your car on the track, don’t worry. We offer HPDE Insurance to protect your car from damage when you’re participating in HPDE, Track Day or Time Trial events.