Ultra-straight front framerails will be a thing of the past in the near future as chassis designers move to design a more crush friendly chassis. Some of the current designs provide little protection for frontal impact and increase the liability for the car builder.

What we know from past research is that the cars need to crush with a constant resistance over a predetermined distance. That distance is directly dependant on the speed at which impact is made and the amount of g-forces the human body, or in our case, a driver's body with helmet attached, can withstand without serious injury.

Using the g-force limits and the maximum vector speeds (not necessarily forward speed but speed perpendicular to the wall), it has been written that we need a crush zone distance of between 2.2 and 3 feet. Coincidentally, in most racecars, there is almost exactly three feet between the front of the bumper and the front of the engine. The engine is considered by many to be the ultimate limit for how far the car will crush, as it will move very little on impact.

Within the overall crush zone there are two distinctly different areas to design for. The first is the area from the front edge of the bumper to the front of the framerail. Within this area, we could design a collapsible steel or aluminum structure similar to those that many production cars have.

All production cars are designed to crush like an accordion and they offer constant and equal resistance throughout the entire range of the crush zone. This reduces the g-forces transmitted to the occupants of the car.

A design that has been mentioned would be to place some material, similar to foam, between the front bumper and the framerails to absorb some of the impact. The properly designed system must provide adequate and constant resistance.

The second area is the actual main frame. Once the car crushes back to the point where the ends of the framerail are, then the frame must take over and continue the resistance until the required crush zone design distance is used up. Too little resistance of the first zone and too much for the second zone equals high g-forces upon impact.

The most important elements in crush zone design are the amount of resistance of the crush zone structure and the ability of the structure to provide constant and equal resistance all during the crash, just like the stunt air bag.

If we could move the engine back farther from the front bumper, then we would have more room for the crush zone with an additional safety margin. That would increase the time of impact which would reduce the g-forces. This helps cars that are already front heavy and reduces the need to place lead weight in front of the driver, another bad idea.

Head restraints for lateral movement that are built into the seats for super speedway cars have evolved into much stronger and efficient designs. The better devices offer an extended range of protection while enabling the driver to see to the side of the car. Limitation of lateral head movement is a safety goal of those who manufacture racing seats.

The sanctioning bodies and track officials for all of stock car racing need to act now. They need to fully understand how we have come to this point, how important it is to quickly evaluate their own particular safety situation and then put together a list of changes that will be responsible and effective. If they can do that, then once all is said and done, the losses we have suffered as a community will not be in vain.

Do your individual part by buying and using a quality head and neck restraint, a modern, well-designed seat, a highly-rated fire suit and racing approved helmet, and above all, a car that will dissipate energy in a hard crash. Let your car builder know that you are concerned about your safety. Create your safe-er environment today.