"Why was he standing there?" Is all I could help but think as people stood by and watched as a handful of men and women worked on a man that lay motionless on the ground just feet from the race track. Minutes before, my race radio had alerted me that a spectator had been hit by a race car while attempting to take a photo on the hot course. The worst had happened, and even with the quick response from so many in the pits and audience, this man lost his life. The driver hadn't lost control, he was well within the marked race course - and the race course was marked and taped off for spectators. Poor judgement and simply underestimating the danger when around powerful off-road vehicles was the culprit. If you're planning on attending any off-road or rally races, or doing these activities recreationally, please read along with these spectator safety tips and remain aware of your safety at all times.
For many who may never have seen an Ultra4 car run at the Hammers, or a mudbogger bouncing up a mountainside, then you might think that hiding behind a K-Rail will save you. Off-road vehicles perform and act unlike any other vehicles on earth, and they can be very unpredictable.
Race vehicles, off-road and otherwise, need to be treated with a higher respect and caution. They are often prototype builds with custom one-off parts that have not yet been fully tested. Combine that with the amount of abuse they take, and things can and will break. This includes the possibility of loosing hydraulic steering, brakes, horns, lights, and more - think about that the next time you want to stand on the outside of a turn.
While many motorsports are held within confined arenas, off-road and rally events are not. Generally held on open land, the people in charge make safety rules and have to depend on the public to follow them - lining the entire course with ribbon tape is just impossible. So first and foremost, know the rules, know the course, and follow race promoter's directions. It's always good keeping common sense in mind too, so here are some general rules for spectating an off-road race...
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Know where the course is. Do not view the race within 150 feet of the race course.Do not attempt to assist extrication efforts during the race unless called upon by a track official.Do not attempt to touch any vehicle that is moving.Do not drive backwards on the race course.Do not drive on the race course.Do not view the race on the outside of a turn, or downhill from an obstacle.Keep all dogs on a leash, and children in a safe location at all times.Do not view the race from the pit stop locations unless you are a banded team member.Do not park in the race course.Cross the race course only when it is safe to do so and when permission is given by course worker, or official.Do not camp within 200 feet of the race course.Do not stand on the course or within 150 feet.Do not stand on or near the landing of a jump.
These same guidlines go for recreation wheeling as well. While out wheeling for recreation, obviously there are times that you will be closer to the vehicles to assist or guide - but never be downslope of the vehicle or near the outside of a turn. Always be aware of where the vehicle will travel if it rolls or exits the course.
In addition to these guidelines, I'd highly recommend traveling with the following whenever attending an off-road or rally event: drinking water, GPS, race band radio, phone, flashlight, course map, and a vehicle in good working condition.