The coronial inquest into the death of an eight-year-old junior drag racer who suffered “catastrophic” and “irrecoverable” head injuries in a tragic crash has stopped short of calling for the minimum age for the sport to be raised.
Anita Board crashed on November 11, 2017 after reaching a top speed of 85.7km/h while attempting to gain her junior drag racing licence two days after her eighth birthday.
She lost control of her vehicle and slammed into a concrete barrier near an exit gate at the Motorplex. She died in hospital the next day.
The tragedy prompted the McGowan Government to impose a temporary ban on all junior competition drag racing in the State pending a full coronial investigation.
Recently, Coroner Sarah Linton released the findings of an inquest into Anita’s death, recommending the minimum age for drag racing remain at eight years old.
“I did consider recommending an older age for children to commence the programme than eight years of age, particularly given the evidence... about the ability of a child under 10 years of age to assess risk,” she said.
“However, I note the disadvantage this would place children in this State in competition against children in other States and internationally.”
Recommendations also included requirements that all junior drag racing participants come to a complete stop before beginning to move towards an exit gate, and more visible finish markers.
A ban on junior drag racing in Western Australia, imposed shortly after the accident, remains in place until the recommendations are implemented.
Recommendation 1: I recommend that ANDRA give consideration to requiring all junior drag racing participants to continue all the way down the track, rather than through the exit gate. In the alternative, if junior drag racers are required to exit through a side gate, then all junior drag racing participants should be required to come to a complete stop before beginning to execute the turn and the Motorplex should give consideration to installing some form of barrier to the corners of the exit gates, in a similar fashion to what is currently in use at the Sydney Dragway.
Recommendation 2: I recommend that the Motorplex give consideration to replacing the previously used white flags at the Motorplex with some form of fixed and highly visible finish markers that can be swung into position on the safety barrier wall to mark the end of the junior track.
Recommendation 3 : I recommend that the Motorplex and ANDRA work together, and in consultation with the Junior Drag Racing Association in WA, to create and implement a training programme for new junior drag racers, similar to the current training programme in place at Sydney Dragway. In my opinion, the children should not be able to commence the training programme until they are at least eight years old. It should involve the child going through a number of theoretical and practical tests that the child must pass in stages, assessed by a person other than their parent or guardian, before they are able to drive down the track in a dragster at anything more than idling speed. The speed should then gradually be increased. The training should also involve ‘on the track’ orientation at the Motorplex, so that the child will be familiar with the landmarks before they attempt their first licence pass.
Recommendation 4: I recommend that ANDRA introduce a mandatory requirement that all junior racers must include in their personal safety gear a frontal head restraint device as described and demonstrated at the inquest.
Recommendation 5 : I recommend that the Motorplex, in conjunction with ANDRA, make it a requirement at all junior drag racing events at the Motorplex that officials must conduct scrutineering of 25% of the vehicles participating in the junior dragster bracket and complete a full scrutineering of all vehicles once every two years, including driver safety equipment.
Recommendation 6 : I recommend that the Motorplex, in conjunction with ANDRA, explore the feasibility of requiring a remote cut-off device to be installed on all junior dragsters.
Recommendation 7: I recommend that, if the junior racers are to continue to exit the track through the side exit gate, then a CCTV camera(s) should be installed at the Motorplex to capture junior dragsters leaving the gate.