Air walls could save lives

IF you smash in to a wall of wood and concrete, the impact – unsurprisingly – is immense. Lives can be lost and careers left in tatters. For speedway riders this is an occupational hazard and one many of them believe should be addressed – now – to save the lives and careers of riders in the future.

By Victoria Knowles

IF you smash in to a wall of wood and concrete, the impact – unsurprisingly – is immense.

Lives can be lost and careers left in tatters.

For speedway riders this is an occupational hazard and one many of them believe should be addressed – now – to save the lives and careers of riders in the future.

Yesterday, in an interview with the Evening Star, Jeremy Doncaster spoke out in the aftermath of Lawrence Hare's accident.

"It is time the sport was brought in to the modern era," he said.

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Speedway rider Carl Baldwin was injured in a race at Kings Lynn and he believes that air fences could have saved him from injury.

"I would have walked away from my accident if there had been air fences. The fence at Kings Lynn caused my injuries – I have no doubt about that.

"Air fences have to come in to all tracks. Riders have got to get together and demand it, and if it does not happen, then boycott meetings. The fence at Kings Lynn is one of the worst that there is," he said.

Carl was left with broken ribs, bruised lungs and damaged ligaments and will be out of action for another two weeks.

"When you have an air fence it takes much of the impact but when you hit a solid fence it can be like a trampoline where your bike can fly off and come back and hit you. There is also the problem of hidden posts behind the fences which drivers can smash in to.

"This has gone on for too long now. The bikes have got faster and have higher revs but the safety equipment has not caught up with it.

"They make a lot of money from television rights so they could spend that on making the sport safer.

"Lawrence's accident was one of the worst I have seen and everyone is concerned. Surely now they have to sit up and take notice," he added.

Ronnie Allan, chairman of the Speedway Control Board said that every track is judged on its own merits.

"Tracks built after December 31 1998 are not allowed to have solid fences. They have to be wire mesh. All fences are designed to a height of 1.2 m with a two-metre exclusion zone round it to protect the crowd.

"The tracks that have air fences now are those that did not have the two metre exclusion zone around them. Coventry and Mildenhall have the air fences but they have only brought these out in the last year. Each track is judged on its own merits and it is not necessarily the best way forward to always have inflatable fences," he said.

The fences cost around £300 to hire for the day and a whole day to install.

All races have to have a doctor and an ambulance on the scene when a race takes place, but while this deals with the aftermath of an accident it seems there is little change in the regulations that actually help prevent such injuries in the first place.

Other sports like Formula One have introduced new measures over the years like flameproof overalls and they have gravel on the edges of the tracks to slow the cars down.

While such measures may not be right for speedway, they do illustrate the fact that Formula One regularly updates its safety procedures.

They are willing to spend the time and money reviewing and improving safety – but speedway has been left with safety regulations that are outdated and indeed, as Lol's accident has proven, they can be extremely dangerous.

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