By on August 20, 2015

 

News on Thursday that two teens were injured at Lime Rock Park near Salisbury, Connecticut brought forward questions about track safety and security.

Namely, how could tracks be safer and more secure when they’re not operational? And could insurance companies, who already charge a considerable amount of money, eventually sink small town tracks that can’t afford to lockdown tracks completely?

Many tracks are rural parts of the country, and run with skeleton crews — even during race events. That’s because tracks are like golf courses and graveyards, most of their open ground isn’t consistently used and therefore, not always insanely profitable.

A reader told us that Lime Rock’s moveable metal fence was an “open secret” about a decade ago. The reader took their car onto the track at night and when local hotel staff heard about their antics, the staff made it sound like they had done the same.

A while ago, Steven Cole Smith accurately detailed the difficulties of owning a track in America: insurance costs are high, profits are low and NASCAR (or any other form of televised racing) is free. Those all make it incredibly difficult to justify opening a racetrack — but an iconic park like Lime Rock has a different set of problems. Old tracks need to be fitted with new, expensive security systems.

Like anyone who’s been to Road America, or whatever they’re calling Sears Point Raceway, a walk through the trees is sometimes all you need to get up close to the action.

It’s not just tracks in their downtime that are susceptible to their grand size and skeleton-crew security teams. Recently, a young man spectating at Brands Hatch — one of the most storied circuits in Britain — drove a Volkswagen Polo onto the track, during an event, while other cars were racing.

The points also raise important questions about track accessibility. Should tracks be more open to invite people onto the surface in a controlled environment? Have you ever gone on an open track night?

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21 Comments on “How Can Racetracks Improve Security?...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Should tracks be more open to invite people onto the surface in a controlled environment?”

    Yep, if they want money they need to hold track days for yobbos or other driver training events, car shows, etc. But that’s still not going to stop morons from sneaking on at night. The track shouldn’t be penalized for people who decide to subvert security measures and gain access illegally. You went somewhere you shouldn’t have and busted yourself in the process – that’s your problem.

    One time after a delicious dinner of BBQ duck, I hopped a fence with some people at a closed amusement park at night, and we walked around and felt the strangeness of closed kiddie rides and putt-putt. That was in Korea, so no security and the like. Fun stuff! And no property damage or stealing occurred.

    That Miata driver there is missing the apex quite badly.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    While I know that anything can happen, I don’t see there being any insurance payout for trespassers hooning (I assume in the dark) on a racetrack, especially given how the hazards of racing on a dark racetrack are obvious.

    A suit can be filed, but the plaintiff in such a case has to overcome the starting assumption that property owners are not liable for injuries to trespassers.

    According to FindLaw (a more-or-less reputable source), if there are frequent trespassers on a property and the owner knows this (which appears to be the case here), the property owner is only liable if:

    “1) the condition is one the owner created or maintained;
    2) the condition was likely to cause death or serious bodily harm;
    3) the condition was such that the owner had reason to believe trespassers would not discover it; and,
    4) the owner failed to exercise reasonable care to warn trespassers of the condition and the risk presented.”

    I would think that the hazards of racing on a racetrack in the dark would be sufficiently obvious that no specific warning was necessary, failing test number 3. (i.e. A subway might have a sign up warning trespassers of the 3rd-rail, since some people likely think subways run on magic and pixie dust. But the idea that fast cars can hit things and injure you is not in any way hidden or nebulous.)

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Why write “News on Thursday” ? It is still Thursday.

  • avatar
    Kosher Polack

    “That’s because tracks are like golf courses and graveyards, most of their open ground isn’t consistently used and therefore, not always insanely profitable.”

    I am perfectly willing to be buried in the infield! I have a business proposal for you!

  • avatar

    Armed guards with shoot-to-kill orders and German Shep attack dogs solve EVERYTHING.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      And directing them to attack lawyers and anyone else even tangentially involved in suing someone because someone totally unrelated decides to crash his car, will solve everything much more comprehensively.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    There is only so much you can do to secure something as big as a racetrack, on a track owner’s budget. I think as long as there is a locked perimeter fence, a locked fence on the paddock/pit area and some cameras and alarms, the track owner has done due diligence and trespassers have no basis for a liability claim.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Yep simple logic here, they broken into the facility, they were trespassing, no way you can blame the track owner. If I break into a meat packing plant and get ground into… well ground meat who is to blame? Once again it appears common sense isn’t that common. Also these were teenagers, pretty much the demographic that invented stupid behavior, heck we have all been there at one time. Even if the place was lock up as tight as drum they would have figure out a way to race around if they really wanted to.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Race track owners have some money. Not much, but some. Therefore, lawyers make up some nonsense so they can take that money. And public school indoctrinated drones, have been told lawsuits are sometimes something other that simple theft. And are generally dumb enough to believe it. So they stand there starry eyed and stupid and support the thieves. That’s all.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “I think as long as there is a locked perimeter fence, a locked fence on the paddock/pit area and some cameras and alarms”

      The issue here is that apparently there wasn’t a locked, or at least effectively locked, perimeter fence.

      “And public school indoctrinated drones, have been told lawsuits are sometimes something other that simple theft.”

      Got it. So when I hit you in a crosswalk and refuse to compensate you, and you get your medical costs covered by suing me, it’s “theft.”

      Internet tough guys who slag lawyers will find a taste for those lawyers when someone does them wrong.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    I would have thought the karts would be locked up better. They could have just stolen them and sold the parts.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    The real question is not “how,” it is “whether.” And the answer is “no.”

    It’s a shame these kids died from doing stuff just as dumb as what I’ve done (different dumb stuff, different from this dumb stuff that is) but it’s entirely their own fault.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    How expensive are some concrete Jersey barriers? Could you put them across the racetrack at various points to make it where you can’t complete a lap? Worth noting that Lime Rock’s problems were two fold: the access to the go karts and then the ability to get them on track.

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