Champion driver David Summerbell Jr. was pressuring Doug Gore for the lead at the Dover Raceway, in St Ann, when the brakes on his Mitsubishi Evolution 8 failed, and his car ran off the track.
Mr. Summerbell credits his safety gear and the decisions he made during the tense split moments before the crash, for keeping him injury free at the Heroes Day meet on October 17. One of the country’s top race drivers, earlier this year he endorsed the drive of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) to reduce road accidents, under the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.
“In races, we use a six point seatbelt, that has sections going across your waist, two sections coming down over your shoulders and another section coming up between your legs so you are really fastened to the seat,” he explained. The roll cage is also critical, as it forms part of the vehicle chassis and makes it even more rigid.
That equipment proved its worth when Summerbell veered off the track to avoid a collision with Doug Gore’s Audi and his vehicle cut across the motorway, climbed over the tire barriers and ran into a ravine, where it was finally stopped by a tree.
Summerbell walked away from his vehicle, shaken, but unhurt. Recounting his experience, he says that the ordinary roads across the island are far more dangerous than the race track at Dover.
He maintains that racing drivers must adhere to strict safety guidelines at the Dover Raceway and use equipment certified by the global motor racing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), to reduce risk and injury. However, things are somewhat different off the track.
“There are so many more obstacles and so many distractions,” David said. There are rules for driving on the road, as well as standard safety equipment; however, most accidents are caused by excessive speeding and improper driving habits, with many road users not using the available safety equipment in their motor vehicles.
Statistics from the National Road Safety Unit indicate that for the first nine months of 2011, there were some 173 fatal motor vehicle crashes, resulting in approximately 212 deaths and many injuries.
“You always need to be mindful of your safety by using your seatbelt and watching your speed,” Summerbell stated, “And, this is just as important on public roads as for someone driving at Dover.”
As a JAA Ambassador for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety Campaign, which hopes to cut global road fatalities in half by 2020, Mr. Summerbell supports initiatives of the Auto Club to educate motorists about the importance of wearing a seatbelt; and the adoption of responsible driving practices that take into consideration the lives of other motorists, as well as pedestrians.
“Yes, there is a certain amount of risk in motor racing, but success requires discipline, talent, skill and knowing the mechanics of the car you are driving,” the Champion driver asserted. “Therefore, taking needless risks on the roads is pointless, because “a good driver has nothing to prove.”