Initial In-Service Performance Evaluation of the SAFER Racetrack Barrier 2004-01-3526
In recent years, high-speed oval track racing has become one of the most popular sports in the country, especially with regards to the NASCAR and Indy Racing Leagues. In general, typical oval track raceways have used reinforced concrete outer walls for containment of the high-speed race cars. While these concrete walls provide effective containment of errant vehicles, their rigidity has led to many serious injuries and fatalities. Recently, an energy-absorbing barrier was developed by the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln to mitigate the severity of impacts with the outer containment walls. The new barrier, known as the Steel And Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier, consists of a high-strength, tubular steel skin that distributes the impact load to energy-absorbing foam cartridges in order to reduce the severity of the impact, extend the impact event, and provide the occupant of the race car additional protection.
Currently, the SAFER barrier has been installed at a large number of race tracks across the country. A significant number of impacts involving both NASCAR and IRL vehicles have occurred into the various SAFER barrier installations. Impact data from these events has been collected by the safety personnel in the motorsports organizations and provided to the designers of the SAFER barrier. This accident data was then compared with the data from similar impacts on unprotected concrete walls in order to provide a real-world performance evaluation of the SAFER barrier. Analysis of the crash data demonstrated that the SAFER barrier provides a substantial decrease in impact severity and potential driver injuries over impacts with an unprotected concrete wall.