In this installment of the Driver Safety Gear, we are going to talk about the importance of Chest & Rib protectors. Depending on the series you compete in and the age of your driver, you may or may not be required to wear a Chest and Rib protector. In MOST series, all drivers under the age of 13 yrs old are required to wear a rib and chest protector. The reason behind this requirement is that most young drivers are still growing and it is critical to protect there ribs and sternum It doesn't take a accident for a young driver to injure their ribs or their sternum. The lateral G forces alone that the kart can produce while in a turn is enough to injure a drivers ribs or sternum.
The chest and rib protectors are designed to cushion and protect a driver's upper torso from these forces while competing in a race. There are many type of chest and rib protectors on the market. See photo below. Some drivers like to use the style where the chest and rib protector are one unit, while others like to use two separate pieces. One rib protector and one chest protector. The choice is truly one of preference.
The important thing to remember, as with any piece of personal safety equipment is make sure it fits properly. Ill fitting piece of equipment is just as dangerous as not havinig that piece of equipment at all. When researching your equipment, ask around. See what other drivers are using. Ask them why they chose that particular style or brand of equipment. Is it comfortable to wear? Did they need to adjust or change the seat in the kart? In many cases, you will need to adjust your seat to still fit properly in the seat with your rib and chest protector. While this may seem like an obvious statement, but make sure you are able to breathe normally in your kart seat with your new chest and rib protector. While you should be snug in your kart seat, you still need to be able to beathe normally. If you can't beathe normally, it will impact the way your race, which will impact your results. Almost all of the professional race car drivers today will spend hours in their race cars in full gear just to make sure they are completely comfortable in the race car with all of their gear on.
Now I started this installment by saying all young drivers are required to use rib and chest protectors. This is not the case for older drivers. While it is highly recommended older drivers use them, it is not mandatory. As drivers progress up the class structure and move up into faster karts, the forces these machines place on the human body drastically increases and take a toll on the driver. With kart seats stopping at the sides of the driver, this is a major pressure point when going through turns. By wearing a rib protector, which covers the entire side of the driver, from front to back, this takes those forces and spreads them out across the drivers side.
Karting is an amazing sport with inherent dangers. Each and every person involved in karting should take full advantage of the all of the safety gear available to them. In our next installment, we are going to discuss the importance of Neck Collars and the protection they provide to the drivers.
Until then... Go to the Track, Make Friends, Have Fun and Go Home Happy!