Bahria Town Car Race accident: Live Video: Editorial Daily Dawn “Racetrack tragedy”
MANOEUVRING a highspeed racing car on the racetrack may be a thrilling sensation, and standing on the edge of the track watching the vehicle thunder past an exciting experience. But the death of five people and injuries to four others when an out-of-control racing car went off the track and rammed into spectators at a privately organised racing event in the jurisdiction of Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Sunday shows just how risky motorsports can be. Both drivers and spectators are threatened when safety is not the paramount consideration. A knee-jerk reaction to such a tragedy would be to ban the sport altogether and shut down the tracks. However, a saner approach that preserves the racing experience would be to ensure that safety measures are carefully planned and implemented to protect drivers, officials at the event and spectators.
Judging by available reports on how the event was organised by a private real estate and housing development agency and the haphazard way in which official permission for the event was sought and apparently granted, the need for framing appropriate rules and regulations pertaining to motorsports becomes obvious. This and compliance with such rules by track owners, race organisers and drivers must be overseen by the police and other relevant local administration departments. Such safety measures should be in accordance with international standards and must include flame-resistant clothing material, safety helmets and harnesses for drivers, crash barriers, high-safety fences and run-off areas to keep cars and debris on the track away from spectators. They would also require alert fire-fighting, rescue and medical emergency services. While motorsports will always involve an element of danger, safety standards can be ensured if local administration officials as well as drivers, organisers and sponsors of motorspots strive to minimise the consequences of the risks.
Car racing tragedy: no law to catch the guilty
The absence of a law governing the sport means that no one can be held responsible for the deaths during the car race on Sunday.
Five spectators were killed and four were injured when an uncontrolled racing vehicle ploughed into the crowd standing along the track in Bahria Town Phase-VIII.
The Federal Ministry of Sports on Monday termed ‘car racing’ not an officially recognised sporting activity, saying provinces should keep a vigil on such dangerous activities and not allow them until ensuring safety measures for drivers and spectators.
An official of the ministry added that the sport needed almost a million dollar investment for establishment of racing tracks and stadium with sophisticated safety measures for spectators besides modern racing tracks. “Development of such a track is a science itself.” If the sport is regulated, then there will be certain checks and balances for such events but at the moment it’s just a street adventure for youth, he observed.
The car racing sport can be regulated but there are a few legal requisites which are mandatory for giving official cover to it,” he said.
Answering a question, he added: “Sunday’s event, as per our knowledge, was just an exhibition sporting event.
Had there been better preventive measures for the spectators, the tragedy could have been averted.” It all happened suddenly. Despite having separate seating arrangements, a few spectators opted to watch the event standing dangerously close to the track on the footpath and that too near the finishing line, said Murad Ali, one of the eyewitnesses to the tragic accident.
The 3,000cc Japanese car having an altered turbo-engine designed for high speed was dashing towards the finish line when it rammed into the standing spectators, he said.
“It was drag car racing, as two vehicles were on the shoot to touch the finish line in the quarter-mile race; probably the car was racing 140km/h when it skidded off the road tilting towards the right side, hitting the standing spectators who were metres away from the racing site,” he added.
In a drag car racing, a popular sport in America, the vehicle is supposed to complete a certain distance, traditionally a quarter of a mile, in the shortest possible time.
“The thrill is in the high speed in which you complete the distance in seconds,” he added.
The vehicles are not meant for racing; instead they are cars altered into racinglike vehicles,” added motor-vehicle expert Mohammad Mitha. The car which hit the spectators was a normal 3,000cc, he added.
The ministry of sports official said for car racing there is complete kit highlighting all the preventive measures.
“Guard rails are installed and blocks are put along the track to ensure safety of spectators and this is just one of the preventive measures,” he added.