Are Safety Drills Important? And should we be doing them?



Drivers need to know how to and be able to get out of their race karts quickly. This is something that needs to be taught and for the purpose of this post we are going to talk about the Fire related issue to emphasize importance for drivers to have this skill down pat. 

It is rare in Outlaw Karts to have a fire while the driver is in the cockpit but it can, and does, happen occasionally – and yes, it has even happened at KAM Kartway in the past.  The situation is always very frightening, not just because it\’s a fire, but because it is usually behind the driver and they are not aware of any danger right away.  Fuel tanks are mounted behind or to the back side of the driver on most karts, which makes it out of driver\’s sight line while he or she is on the track driving. But the fuel tank is not the only fire hazard on a race kart! And the potential fire risk in Motorsports makes us (the track officials) extra alert as we are always on the lookout for flames so that we can take action.  Alerting the driver and getting them out of the kart would be the number 1 priority; putting out fire is 2nd to that.  We are prepared with fire extinguishers in the infield at all times, and it is a KAM rule that all race teams have a fire extinguisher in their race trailer or pit spot area.


I often tell parents, and write about it in blog articles that I post, that the race parent IS the Driver\’s COACH when it comes to youth kart racing.  As the Coach, you need to conduct safety drill exercises with your child, and even though the odds are particularly low that a Young Gun, Jr 1 or Jr 2 driver will experience a fire – you should still start them as young as possible on safety drills so they know what to do and how to do it in case of an emergency (all emergencies, not just fires).  In fact, as soon as a child begins to race, safety issues and safety drills should be enforced as part of their Driver Development Plan.  It\’s never too early ~ or too late ~ if you haven\’t yet done this with your driver and you\’ve already got a few years under your belt start now. 

Below is a video I found on YouTube that depicts what can happen to a racer when a fire breaks out in the cockpit.  I know it\’s a Sprint car, but the parameters are just the same for your child in his Race Kart – so don\’t kid yourself that it can\’t happen to them.  And like I said, I\’ve seen it happen – one of my KAM Kids here at the track a number of years ago was real serious and what I would consider a worst case scenario as he was still on fire after exiting his kart.  [But the good news is the driver it happened to did get a cool nickname from the experience  = \”Fireball Roberts\” ~ a nod to the NASCAR driver with the same name. FYI: Jarrett Roberts is still racing to this day down in Waco in big cars!] 

I\’m not trying to scare anyone (especially the Momma Bears out there!), I just want you to understand how serious this can be and every driver must be prepared for any probable situation and know how to exit their kart as fast as possible. 

The driver in this first video becomes engulfed in flames (viewer discretion advised) even though he got out relatively fast, and he knew to \”stop, drop and roll\”.  Of course he was also wearing a Fire Suit and the timeline shows that the flames were put out within seconds, thus preventing any burns.  I strongly encourage all my drivers to wear one, even though they are only mandatory for the upper Outlaw classes.



Basically you want the driver to get out of the kart as fast as possible to avoid being in direct contact with the flames from any fire. They need to stop their kart as soon as they become aware of any flame (or other emergency), preferably as close to the infield as possible so track officials can quickly assist them. Drivers need to know how to unbuckle their harness and disconnect their steering wheel to remove it.

And did you know – a Fire Suit only allows for mere 3 to 40 seconds before possible second degree burns will occur, depending on the SFI rating of the garment.  So it\’s important to note that the SFI rating is only based on fire RETARDANT capabilities.  The SFI certified safety gear is not FIRE PROOF – and like I said, they only have seconds until the fire gets to their skin.  With that said, it is also a good idea to make sure their race gloves, shoes and helmet have fire ratings as well to be safe.  We offer a great helmet by ZAMP that has a fire retardant inner padding/lining, and our UltraShield gloves and shoes (and even their safety belts) have good SFI ratings.  We also suggest Fire resistant underwear for added protection – like the PXP brand that KAM Motorsports can special order for you.


Okay, so we know the driver needs to get out as fast as he or she can.  As the Coach you need to prepare your driver for the emergency but in a way that they don\’t fear the possibility or panic when it happens.  We need drivers to stay calm and cool headed in emergency situations.  Doing timed drills and watching videos on the subject will help you to make sure they understand that every driver does this, and that it\’s a normal part of learning the sport. You can even make it fun.  Have him/her compare times with other drivers at the track – make it a friendly competition among the drivers.  [I\’m thinking about having a \”Challenge\” at the start of the season.]

Below is another YouTube video, this one by Outlaw and Sprint Car Driver Tanner Holmes, he posts some great videos on his YouTube channel and you should check them out (I recommend that you go and subscribe to his channel and take notes for your own Driver Marketing strategy.  I\’ve also included links to  his other Social Media at the end of this paragraph, he\’s doing his driver marketing right!!! – but that\’s another subject! but one you should take seriously.) He and his sister show you how to unbuckle your safety belts & restraints and quickly release your steering wheel with the emphasis being on speed.  Tanner uses a stopwatch to time his sister [she\’s not happy with her results, lol]….and I recommend that you do the same with your driver.  For some reason when a Coach takes out a stopwatch the athlete takes it more seriously, maybe because it becomes a competition at that point.  (Click here for Tanner\’s Facebook page. Here for his Website. Here for his  Twitter.)




Although children learn \”Stop, Drop and Roll\” at an early age in school, you need to re-enforce this procedure should they have flames coming off their suit after they have exited the kart.  While safety and track personnel will be on them like a \”white on rice\”, they need to know to drop and roll and not to start running toward the gates to get to a parent – which is what most kids want to do when they are scared and panicked.  Practice this as part of the Safety Drill Exercise – do it in full safety gear [ie: suit, helmet, gloves, neck/helmet restraint, arm restraints].  Tell them not to worry about their helmet because the flame being put out is the most important priority – and in a panic drivers want to remove their helmets first thing after exiting the kart to avoid feeling \”caged in\” and/or to assess damages.  They may not even realize they are on fire, especially if it\’s on the backside of the suit, so being attentive and paying attention to the track officials instead of removing their helmet or taking off gloves – or assessing damages like I said is important in an emergency situation.  [We\’ll put out the fire on the kart as soon as possible!!]  This must be stressed to your driver. 

The Safety Drill Exercise isn\’t just specifically for fires only.  Other emergency situations, like a bad crash, flip landing upside down or other kart entanglements that could cause further injury, weather conditions, or maybe they are in another class and have to change karts fast so they don\’t miss the race – any of these situations can require the need for a driver to exit his or her kart in a speedy fashion.  


And A Final A Reminder About Emergencies on the Track: Parents remember that you can not run onto the track if there is ever an emergency with your driver – you must wait for a track official to signal that it\’s okay for you to come out to be with your driver.  Please understand that this rule is important for your safety and the safety of the other drivers on the track.  And I promise, we will take good care of your child in the event of an emergency situation!!  And you\’ll be signaled it\’s safe to come on track as soon as possible, but wait for officials to give the okay before coming on track – your driver is subject to penalty otherwise. 




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