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HANS Device – Should we all have them?

A HANS (Head And Neck Support) device goes over your shoulders and around your neck, and attaches to your helmet on each side by a short tether.

It’s an ingenious invention that has saved many lives.  Basically, if you hit something had head-on, the car stops dead but your head keeps on going forwards, rotating down towards your chest before pulling your spinal column out of your brain.  What you may hear referred to as a ‘brain stem injury’ or ‘basil skull fracture’.  And you’re dead.

A HANS device will stop your head going forward enough that your brain will stay attached to your spine, and you’ll live.

I’ve put that bluntly, because us drivers like to gloss over safety stuff, obscure them in technical language that makes it all sound colder and less personal, or we just ignore it and hope it never happens to us.

When the HANS kit first came into racing, one of the biggest opponents to it was one of the greatest NASCAR racers ever – Dale Earnhardt.  Somewhat ironically, when he hit the wall head on at silly speeds, he would have almost certainly walked away from the crash had he worn a HANS device to stop his fatal and instant brain stem injury.

From Wikepdia:

“Before this point, many drivers, including Earnhardt.,[5] resisted the HANS (and similar) devices, claiming them to be uncomfortable, more restrictive and fearing that it would cause more injuries and problems than it prevented. Some stated that the positioning of the device made the seat belts feel less secure or rubbed on the shoulders or collar bone. Earnhardt himself referred to the device as “that damn noose“, claiming the tethers would sooner hang him than save him in the event of a crash. The week after Earnhardt’s death, Mark Martin said Rockingham, “I would not wear one for anything. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and take my chances”.[5] However, drivers were not willing to participate in the process of perfecting the fit, and endure the limitations imposed by such devices.”

If NASCAR is unfamiliar to you, you may know a few of these who also may well still be with us if they’d worn a HANS: Ayrton Senna, Roland Ratzenburger, Blaise Alexander, Gonzalo Rodriguez.

Many top level formulas from open-wheels to closed wheels now have HANS devices as a mandatory requirement.

There is always talk of making them mandatory in all levels of motorsport – and it’s pretty much impossible to argue anything against this ruling.

To surprise you even more, I currently do not have any plans to use a HANS device.

I mean, if I come into some money I’d have it on the list, but at present my helmet isn’t equipped with the ‘posts’ needed to attach the tethers (I’m told you can get these fitted quickly and easily to any helmet), and my budget doesn’t stretch to the £500 or so needed to buy the kit.

Yes, I am fully aware that I’m a fool.

I’m not trying to pretend to myself that it could never happen to me, or that the chances of sticking a Formula Vee face-first into a wall are too slim, or that we’ve done without them for years etc.

Having said that, finally forcing myself to write all this out, I’m now thinking about it… It’s pretty much one race weekend fees for something that could very well mean you’ll be able to do it all again next weekend…

Do you use a HANS device yourself?

If not – why not?

Hans Test Photo

Hans Test Photo

***UPDATE***

As soon as I posted this I’d really decided that I’d be using a HANS device myself for racing.  Plus my beautiful fiancee proved she does read my boring racing blogs, and gave me her ‘thoughts’ on the matter, too!

There are no arguments against using a HANS device.

Fellow Vee racer Ben Miloudi has also very kindly offered to lend me his HANS kit whilst he’s away from racing next year, so that sealed it all for me!  Cheers Ben!

***FURTHER UPDATE***

Well, well.  Today I saw from several sources that the MSA have actually made it mandatory for drivers of any single seater racing car manufactured after 01 January 2000 to wear a HANS device.  This will come into effect from 01 January 2015.

They’ve also made it very clear that they recommend them for pre-2000 cars, too (Glenn’s Formula Vee Sheane that I drive would be exempt), and added that from 2016 all single seater drivers will need to be using a HANS.

This is good for all of us, and fair play to the MSA and FIA!

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