Dr. Teena Garrison, assistant research professor for the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems at Mississippi State University recently discussed safety concerns at the International Motorsports Industry Show safety and technical conference. She said resistance to change is part of human nature. That's particularly true in motorsports, when anything that may reduce the ability to perform at a high level is ignored or worse, treated with derision. Part of it is due to the culture of the sport, and partly because of human behavior.
"You have to balance safety and performance," Garrison said. "You can come up with all the safety innovations you want, but if you don't protect performance -- or if you start interfering with performance -- the competitors aren't going to care and they'll probably fight tooth and nail against it." Garrison said, "It's very complex," and further discussed, "If you change the track conditions, you change the race conditions. If you change the vehicle characteristics, you change the race conditions. And as soon as you start changing things, the competitors are going to start fighting back."
Garrison deals mainly with law enforcement and firefighters in her research, but the way they deal with the dangers of their jobs is very similar to that of NASCAR drivers and crews. "They emphasize performance and getting the job done over their own personal safety," Garrison said. "There are risks involved that they just assume and accept, and sometimes embrace.
"Our jobs as engineers then are to basically save the practitioners from themselves. They're not going to design for that. They're not going to worry about that. So we have to do that for them."
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