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Only recently has the racing industry acknowledged that the number one cause of racing-related fatalities is basilar skull fractures from excessive head motions and neck loading. Racing legend Dale Earnhardt‟s death proved to the racing world and the general public that what appears to be a low impact crash can be fatal. Under development and extensively tested for over a decade, there is a device that can reduce the risk of serious injury or even death to the driver in such a crash.
It is the Head And Neck Support (HANS) device. The HANS, head and neck support was invented by Dr. Robert Hubbard, a biomechanical engineering Professor at Michigan State University. Many debilitating or fatal head and neck injuries could be prevented using this system.
Extensive testing has proven that HANS consistently reduces the injury potentials from head motions and neck loads.
The latest example of the engineers‟ efforts to make Grand Prix racing as safe as possible is the new Head And Neck Support (HANS). The system is easy to use and extremely effective. It prevents over-extension of the driver‟s neck region in the event of extreme deceleration. It is designed to „complete‟ driver head protection, covering the one aspect to be still exposed. Forward movement of the head and neck has, until now, been the only unrestrained area in driver impact safety. Extensive research and testing has resulted in what experts now believe to be a practical solution to the issue.
In a crash without HANS, the shoulder harness and seat restrain the driver‟s torso, but only the neck restrains the head and helmet. The HANS device keeps the driver‟s head from being pulled away from his upper body. With HANS, forces stretching the neck are reduced to less than one-fifth in a frontal collision as slow as 41 mph. The HANS works in a simple and elegant manner. A CFRP yoke is worn by the driver fitted around his neck and under the shoulder belts. His helmet is loosely connected to this yoke by tethers ensuring free movement of the head. In a frontal crash, these tethers restrain the head with forces that directly counteract the head‟s forward movements while the torso and HANS are restrained by the shoulder harness. By restraining the head to move with the torso in a crash, the head motions and forces in the neck are dramatically reduced. The helmet loading is also transferred from the base of the skull to the forehead- which is far better suited in taking the force.
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