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Protection in Motorsport

The popularity of motorsport has soared over the past few decades. More and more money is being invested into F1 every year. Along with the popularity and money has come significant improvements in the ability of race cars. Testament to this is the capability of the latest Mercedes F1 car, with a top speed of 330 kmph and an impressive 0-60mph time of 2.2 seconds.

Despite all the technological advancements within the motorsport industry, with cars travelling at such high speeds and drivers willing to take risks in order to please crowds, race tracks are more dangerous than ever. Earlier this year at the Mexican grand prix, Williams driver Valtteri Bottas was recorded driving at 231.5 mph, one of the fastest speeds ever recorded.

With the aerodynamics of cars designed to help reach optimum performance, it could be argued that the preference of stream lining and achieving the best levels of downforce comes at the expense of the safety of the driver.

Undoubtedly safety standards have improved since the very first Grand Prix in 1950. Since the fatalities of Ratzenberger and Senna in 1994, there had been no driver deaths during world championship events for over two decades until the recent death of Jules Bianchi in July 2015 following his injuries sustained during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

As well as the use of carbon fibre replacing aluminium in order to increase protection for drivers in the event of a crash, F1 officials have also introduced numerous safety standards. Grooved tyres have replaced racing slick tyres to effectively reduce speeds especially when cornering. Many circuits throughout the world have also redesign their track layouts to significantly improve driver safety and minimise the top speeds that can be reach along any one stretch of track.

The inclusion of Armco crash barriers along long stretches of track and corners have led to a significant reduction in the loss of life to both drivers and spectators. The barriers mean that collisions are more likely to be restricted to the track rather than causing extensive damage off the race course and hitting fans and spectators. Originally introduced with the backing of the world famous Jackie Stewart following an accident that left him with a broken collar bone and ribs being lucky to escape with his life. Crash barriers were initially met with pessimism from many drivers, mainly due to the fact the aluminium cars of the time were not strong enough to disperse the extensive crash energies involved in colliding with a steel barrier. However after many circuits began to erect the crash barriers subsequently resulting in fewer injuries and deaths, it wasn’t long before the entire motorsport industry was in support of the new safety measure.
To this day crash barriers are responsible for saving countless lives in F1 and other motorsports. The transition from aluminium to carbon fibre cars also mean that cars were much better equipped to handle collisions with a crash barriers and effectively protect drivers at the same time.

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The Benefits of Crash Barriers

Over the past 50 years the motorway network of the UK has significantly improved, bringing with it substantial improvements in safety standards. It is a commonly known fact that the UK is one of the safest places to drive in the world.
The UK benefits from one of the lowest road death rates in Europe, and is statistically safer than other developed countries such as the Netherlands, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The low death rate is partly due to a number of reasons. The past decade has seen a significant increase in the number of road safety campaigns across social media, television, radio and other media outlets. The ‘Think’ campaigns have highlighted issues such as drink driving, fatigue, importance of seat belts, as well as a huge host of other important safety measures. These campaigns have gone a long way to improve public awareness and help people to become more safety conscious when driving.

Safety improvements to automobiles themselves have also helped significantly reduce fatalities on the roads. Improved braking systems and better safety measures within the car themselves have led to a reduction in collisions and an increases in survival rates when accidents do occur.

Another major factor is the implementation of Armco crash barriers on large stretches of roads and motorways. Crash barriers have been built along nearly all major motorways and A roads. The barriers play a significant role in reducing the damage caused in accidents and ultimately the number of fatalities on UK roads.
Used as dividers between opposing carriageways of traffic, the barriers reduce and limit the effects of an accident should one occur. This form of segregation prevents automobiles from colliding with oncoming traffic and causing extreme levels of damage and fatality.
The barriers work to contain the impact of the accident, absorbing much of the energy and working towards directing the vehicle in the correct direction to avoid it entering a stream of traffic or even flipping over.
The barriers themselves are made from thick corrugated steel to help them absorb as much energy as possible helping them contain traffic. The barriers are a relatively cheap from of protection, and can often be quickly and easily installed.

The improvements in safety measures have resulted in the UK having one of the lowest death rates per 100,000 people. In data recently published by The Guardian, the UK has a death rate of only 5.4 people per 100,000. This figure is very low when compared to other European countries such as Belgium whose death rate of 10.2 is almost double that of the UK. When related to the rest of the world, the UK statistics look even more impressive, with countries such as Russia (25.2) and Egypt (41.6) suffer from some of the highest death rates.