Airbag Suits for AFT

November 15, 2019

American Flat Track had already announced that it planned to make airbag suits mandatory for its racers from 2020 before a spate of serious injuries blighted the final rounds of the 2019 season. It has been confirmed that all SuperTwins racers (the new name for the Twins class) must wear airbag suits (or, I assume, airbag vests under their own suits, like happens in MotoGP classes). Riders in Production Twins and Singles has 'strongly encouraged' to wear airbag suits. This film shows that Dainese are offering 50% reduction to AFT licensed riders, bring a custom airbag suit down to a more reasonable $2000, from close to $4000.

 

Any improvements in safety are welcome, but looking at the video, made by Dainese and hosted by American Flat Track, the airbag looks to cover shoulder and neck, with less coverage being given to the thorax (the torso), which some studies of flat track injuries have shown are the most concerning and life-threatening. 

 

Flat track accidents seem to be far different from many road race circuit injuries. This is purely observational, but the deep dirt of cushion tracks often seems to decelerate fallen riders keeping them on or close to the racing line. Add to the fact that cushion track have multiple lines spread through the width of the corner, where top class road racing has a line about a metre wide, at the very most, for the whole field. While road race speed can be much faster, riders leave the scene of the accident, often on their butts, very quickly. They very rarely stop on track increasing the chance of an impact from another rider. There is also the visibility issue with the roost at cushion tracks.

 

The worst injuries in recent years have involved more than one bike. Riders don't often get badly hurt from low- or even highsiding, unless there is a subsequent impact and it's hard to know how much an airbag suit will help those second impact situations. 

 

This move is a step in the right direction. Let's hope there are more, especially when it comes to track prep - the reason many of the pros are blaming for some of the most recent life-changing accidents. 

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