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BMW 3-Series (E90 E92) Forum > E90 / E92 / E93 3-series Technical Forums > Tracking, Autocrossing, Dragstrip, Driving Techniques > Accidents in the track, anybody?



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      12-19-2007, 04:57 AM   #1
martieg
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Accidents in the track, anybody?

I have never been to a track - yeah, I know, you'll say "you've been missing a lot of fun". One of the things that keeps me from going is that because everybody is going fast the chances of an accident are higher than in the street. I just visited one of the "Track Day" websites, and they require helmets, fire retardant suites, etc - which confirms my previous statement.

Is it true? How frequent (and how bad) accidents are in the track?
What about insurance? Do you have to pay extra to be insured on the track? Do they insure you at all while on the track?

I know fun has its risks, but so far my scale hasn't tipped to the fun side strong enough.

Have you ever been involved in any type of accident, or have you witnessed one?

Last edited by martieg; 12-19-2007 at 09:06 AM..
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      12-19-2007, 08:44 AM   #2
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Ah...since I have been at probably 100 track days..I guess I can comment. in the 9 years I have been tracking..I have seen probably 20 issues whereby someone either hit a wall (actually I was instructing someone that hit the wall on my side when we were at Infineon/Sears Point). I have seen a few times when people have hit others..and created damage..and I have seen two complete roll overs...lastly..on a test day before a race..I was out in my race car and saw two cars collide from different turns..and die on scene. Yes, I said die almost immediately..and they had roll bars/helmets/fire supression systems. I am not trying to scare you...just tell you how it is..you shouldnot be out there unless you are prepared to deal with what could happen to your car. Also, you should always think while you are driving about those family members that count on you..or care about you. If something were to happen to you...what would happen to them. That is why I only go 9/10ths while on track. I could take more chances and be a bit faster..but I dont want to stack the deck against me.. However, track events are great ways to improve or hone your skills ..that will directly affect how you drive on the street, highway, and freeway. It allows you to be more prepared for what you may see when you are driving to work..or on vacation..whatever. I "HIGHLY RECOMMEND" that you attend a high performance driving school in your area.

Most events have a blanket insurance policy to cover damages that you do to the track itself. Your auto policy will most likely NOT cover any damages you do to your car..you are on your own..and I would not even tell them something happened if it did happen..they will most likely cancel your policy and place you in assigned risk category. If they do cover it..they will cancel right after they cover that particular event. Very few will cover damage incurred while at a high performance driving school on a track. The main thing is ...be prepared financially to fix what you break or damage.

Yes, I have hit someone in the rear once while driving this car...

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      12-19-2007, 09:28 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S4to335 View Post
Ah...since I have been at probably 100 track days..I guess I can comment.
Wow - thanks for this honest perspective - considering I have no experience, and several children under 12 years old ... it's going to be hard for me to sign up for a track day.
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      12-19-2007, 09:35 AM   #4
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I would still go to an event if I were you.

An article I wrote last year...

http://www.audiworld.com/news/06/mil.../content.shtml

about an event in Utah..here is the car I was co-driving that weekend..

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      12-19-2007, 11:19 AM   #5
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There are insurance companies that offer track day insurance. If you go, buy it. See http://prosure.net for example.

People sometimes die and get hurt at track days. The question is whether or not at a novice level the risk of an accident is greater than the potential benefit that comes from improving your driving skills. Driving, in general, is dangerous. Look around you...people talking on phones, while applying make-up or shaving, and drinking a latte all at the same time. Want to discuss risk? At least at a track day you have confidence that people are paying attention to driving, and are most likely sober.

Like S4, when I go to the track I never aim to set the fastest possible time. I go to work on a specific aspect of my driving and focus on that. My ego is left in the paddock.

Going to a driver's school (as opposed to a HPDE) is safer. Those schools run by BMW CCA are usually the safest around. Still, there is an element of risk and that needs to be pondered.

Frankly all of my driver's schools and decades of auto-x saved my son's and my life about a year ago. I was driving on a rain slicked mountain road in my 2005 Mini Cooper S. My then 7 year old son was in the front with me because i felt that was safer than the back of the Mini. As we came around a corner at a moderately slow speed, a girl in a 4Runner coming the other way was skidding out of control into my lane. Had I lacked the experience that led to my willingness to FLING the car out of the way in an extremely aggressive manner, while also not going off the side of the road, it would have been a head-on collision. However, I managed to get far enough out of the way that she just grazed the side of the Mini. After exchanging information I continued taking my son to school in the Mini and drove it to the body shop.

As I said...it is a risk/reward analysis that you have to perform. Nobody can tell you which way to come down on it. But you now have my personal thoughts for what they are worth.
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      12-19-2007, 04:35 PM   #6
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There are usually small incidents occasionally, and rarely there will be a severe crash. From my limited experience on track, the severe crashes usually happen because someone was clearly driving above their limit.

Personally, I've had a few near misses, but no contact (barrier or another car) yet, and they were all due to my driving over my limit. This isn't to say that there might be other factors you have to watch for like oil and coolant spills, debris, etc.

As for insurance...recently, I saw my friend crash head first with his car into a barrier right in front of me (looked bad initially, wasn't that bad when I saw the car up close). He had the car towed to a shop, then just told his insurance company that he had a mishap on some road. He was covered with no questions.

I'm not recommending doing what he did, but that's always an option. There are numerous track insurance companies that will cover you. In any case, I would NEVER inform any normal insurance company that you had an on-track incident.

White05X3, most HPDEs are driver's schools I thought.
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      12-19-2007, 04:48 PM   #7
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I have been tracking since 1999. I have really only gone to BMWCCA events and I say they are fairly safe. Yes for sure it is a track event and stuff happens. I have seen about a dozen accidents on the track. I also make sure that I go to events that have fewer walls and as S4 says don't push it. Of those dozen accidents all but one have been novice students that weren't listening to their instructors and continued to push it beyond their abilities. The one that wasn't was an advanced student "A" in a brand new e46 M3 that he had never tracked before. He got on it too early and slamed into the wall at Laguna Seca.

I myself have spun my car on the track. I will tell you it scared the crap out of me but luckily no damage. As others have said you should assume you'll have to pay for any and all damage. You should also drive within your limits. I go and my #1 priority is to "keep the sunny side up". I don't get cocky and I don't push it even close to where I'm not in control. Still anything can happen.

I have been told though that if you make the cross from driving schools to racing schools its not about IF you'll get into an accident but WHEN. Seeing as I take my daily driver I just enjoy it, learn the car, learn the track and don't push it too far. I get to take my car past the limits that are available on the streets and have an awesome time and I feel its still pretty safe. Safe enough that I had my wife start doing track events as well.

Look up the BMWCCA events. They are a lot of fun and well organized.
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      12-19-2007, 05:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shimshimhada View Post
White05X3, most HPDEs are driver's schools I thought.
Usually but not always. Some companies offer open track time, but no instruction.
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      12-19-2007, 10:25 PM   #9
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If you want a bit safer tracking environment, you can try autox events through the BMW CCA. those are not on a track, do not have barriers and walls, and there is really no chance two cars can hit each other because the cars do not run simultaneously. Obviously, the fun factor is reduced in comparison to driving on a track, but autox is still plenty fun and pretty much safe for you and the car.
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      12-20-2007, 09:24 AM   #10
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I've been to three track weekends thus far (two with BMWCCA), so I'm still very new to all of this, but in all honesty - I have felt safer on the track then I did driving to the track. I am not joking or exagerating. Even though we were driving fast on the track, all of the cars were going in the same direction, everyone was paying attention to what they were doing, and everyone had an instructor in the car with them that was also paying attention to what was going on.

For an extra measure of safety, I also left all of the stability and traction control systems turned on.

For what it's worth, the BMWCCA instructors and organizers have said that accidents are particularly rare in the novice groups.

I agree with what the other posters have mentioned. But seriously, driving on the interstate around Atlanta is way, way, way more dangerous than driving on Road Atlanta.

One last warning - if you do try it, you'll get addicted and it will cost you a fortune!
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      12-20-2007, 10:30 AM   #11
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I did a few years of autox before I went on track. And then I did autox between track events to keep my in tune with my car and its handling.
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      12-20-2007, 10:49 AM   #12
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Here is an event I was at. My friend snapped some picts of my car and got the upside down one in the background.
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      12-20-2007, 10:49 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevbh View Post
I've been to three track weekends thus far (two with BMWCCA), so I'm still very new to all of this, but in all honesty - I have felt safer on the track then I did driving to the track. I am not joking or exagerating. Even though we were driving fast on the track, all of the cars were going in the same direction, everyone was paying attention to what they were doing, and everyone had an instructor in the car with them that was also paying attention to what was going on.

For an extra measure of safety, I also left all of the stability and traction control systems turned on.

For what it's worth, the BMWCCA instructors and organizers have said that accidents are particularly rare in the novice groups.

I agree with what the other posters have mentioned. But seriously, driving on the interstate around Atlanta is way, way, way more dangerous than driving on Road Atlanta.

One last warning - if you do try it, you'll get addicted and it will cost you a fortune!

Its nice that they said (your instructors) that novice group issues are rare...but it all depends on where you are running, what group you are running with, and how they run the event. I have seen issues in all groups..even the instructor group...yes, I have seen an instructor roll a car in the rain at Infineon/Sears Point...turn 8B...it was a slow roll..but it was a roll all the same. The good part about being in a car with an instructor..is that they can intervene when you are upsetting the car....doing things like braking in the middle of corners...etc. If you persist..they can pull you in the hot or cold pits for a long talk about the rules of track driving.

BTW, just for another data point..I have probably spun out on track...15-18 times..yes, that many. A few times in the rain..but mostly in the dry. What did I do wrong...well, it early on in my driving career..and I did things like:

1) lifting while in a corner
2) braking while in a corner
3) early apexing (turning to early) - this is a big thing you need to overcome asap.
4) following someone doing the WRONG line
5) staying on throttle when the car is pushing already (wheels turned..car still going straight)
6) riding a wet painted berm (oops..those things are real slippery)

Dont feel bad if you actually do spin...its all part of the learning process. Just come in..talk to the nice control person..tell them what you did..tell them you will take it easy from now on..and assure them you wont do it again.

Steve-out.
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      12-20-2007, 10:58 AM   #14
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I would recommend that the first time you go out make sure your have an experienced instructor that shows you the lines and knows the track. Like mentioned before don't push to much beyond your comfort, you will increase your chances of loosing control of your car.

Knowing your braking capabilities will help you... make sure you have some good tires and you'll be fine.

Have fun... be safe...
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      12-20-2007, 05:29 PM   #15
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I spoke with my insurance agent today. He stated that driving schools, and we did parse out high performance, are still covered as long as you are the driver of the car. Anything involving competition would not be covered, including timed events. I assume this includes auto-x.
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      12-20-2007, 06:02 PM   #16
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This is an excellent thread, not because I started it, but for the quality input you guys are providing.

However, I'm still very hesitant to start any tracking, despite the encouraging words of many of you.

I have learned a lot about the tracking world though. I guess I will continue racing virtual competitors in XBOX's PGR3 and Test Drive games!
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      12-20-2007, 06:17 PM   #17
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There is some very good and realistic advice here, but I think if you go to a BMW club HPDE day you will be quite safe in the novice(they err on the side of caution naturally), and most importantly become a safer driver yourself, which in the long term outweighs the risks of a day at the track. I think the danger comes at the point where you have a few track days under your belt and think you're Schumacher.
The downside is that it becomes addictive and can become as expensive as polo.
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      12-20-2007, 07:23 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magna3 View Post
I spoke with my insurance agent today. He stated that driving schools, and we did parse out high performance, are still covered as long as you are the driver of the car. Anything involving competition would not be covered, including timed events. I assume this includes auto-x.
What company?
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      12-20-2007, 07:31 PM   #19
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Magna3, I would check again and specifically ask them to make sure on-track driving schools aren't prohibited. If it's a major insurance company, they are more likely than not to mention that on-track events, timed or not, is not covered in the policy.
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      12-20-2007, 09:47 PM   #20
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I'll do, and be painstakingly detailed in explaining. I'll report back.
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      12-20-2007, 10:20 PM   #21
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From bf.c:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie View Post
My USAA policy states "any event designed to test or improve driver skill" is not covered. They're not even gonna worry about the "on a racetrack" part.

Gotta love that BS.

-Charlie


Damn insurance companies, makes sense though, crappy drivers = more money.
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      12-20-2007, 10:38 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shimshimhada View Post
Magna3, I would check again and specifically ask them to make sure on-track driving schools aren't prohibited. If it's a major insurance company, they are more likely than not to mention that on-track events, timed or not, is not covered in the policy.
I think this is one reason why the Audi club calls the events "Driver Safety Seminars" or something similar..and they dont allow laptimers. With Northern California racing club..or NASA NorCal..you can even rent transponders to track your lap times for Time trials...THOSE are definitely not covered.
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