Safety equipment has always faced a longer road to acceptance than parts that can make the car perform better. The death or injury of high-profile drivers may lead to a burst in safety equipment purchases, but it wanes in time. The effort to mandate certain equipment by more sanctions has forced the hand of the racer. The grumbling is being quieted in many pit areas.

While the Head and Neck Support (HANS) system has been in existence for nearly 15 years, it was incorrectly viewed as unnecessary in many racing circles. In 1997, with the help of Daimler Chrysler, the company developed a smaller version, less cumbersome to racers.

As the sport became more safety conscious, the HANS(r) device was soon cast into the spotlight. As one of the forms of head restraint devices approved by sanctioning bodies, drivers soon found themselves looking into the option. Suddenly, saving your neck became an important priority.

How it Works The concept behind the HANS(r) system was developed by Dr. Robert Hubbard and racer Jim Downing. It operates under the physically proven idea that, in racing impacts, the head was subjected to rotation and the neck was stretched. While the torso may have been sufficiently restrained by the belts, the head and neck were victims of the physical forces reverberating through the body. By the use of a tethering system, the head and neck are prevented from extreme movement.

The Proper Device There are currently 10 models in the array of HANS(r) devices. It is not a one-size-fits-all scenario because racers are not all the same size. The most important consideration is the type of racing being done-specifically, the angle of the seat from vertical. In most cases, stock cars will use the 20 Series. This indicates that the seats are approximately 20 degrees from vertical. This is the most upright model with 30 and 40 Series devices used by many open-cockpit racers.

In addition to the angle of the seatback, the physical size of the driver comes into play. The driver's weight and dress-shirt neck collar size are important considerations. There are small (neck size of less than 15 inches), regular (neck size of 15 to 1811/42 inches), and large (neck size greater than 1811/42 inches) styles. Children's models are also available.

There are two styles: professional and economy. The professional model is the lighter choice, made completely of carbon fiber. The economy model has some fiberglass material in the composite. Both are designed to accomplish the same purpose.

Safety-Tested The HANS(r) device was thoroughly tested before introduction to the market in 1990. It has since gone through a battery of tests to determine worthiness in various applications.

The main purpose of the HANS(r) is to keep the head from swinging. This reduces the stretching of the neck. The neck stretch was a critical component in basilar skull fractures, which killed many racers. Additionally, the device reduces the rotation of the head. While the head moves forward in a straight line, brain movement goes along the same plane. Movement from rotation leads to potential brain injury. Through testing, it has been found that loads and acceleration on the driver are best reduced by coupling the body as well as possible with the chassis.

How To Wear It The HANS(r) device slips over the shoulders. The car's shoulder harnesses serve to secure the device to the body. Beneath the collar, there are Nomex-covered medium density foam pads for driver comfort. These pads can also be medical gel. They spread the contact load across the shoulders in the event of an accident.

The lateral edges of the yoke should not interfere with the free movement of the arms and shoulders, such as crossing your arms during steering.

The helmet is attached to the HANS(r) device by use of a post-style or J-clip. Any Snell-rated helmet can be adapted to provide the adequate support for use of the HANS(r) device.