When a child dies while participating in sports, should parents be blamed?
Sunday's death of Grand Prix motorcycle racer Peter Lenz, of Vancouver, Wash., has sparked debates about parenting and motorsports. Lenz, who had recently turned 13, became the youngest racer to die at the century-old Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lenz was hit by another driver, 12, after falling off his bike during a warm-up lap.
Almost immediately, a blanket condemnation of motorsports for kids started flying. How can parents allow children to do something so dangerous when they can't even get a driver's license? This story asked the question whether kids are old enough to participate in extreme sports.
"It blows my mind that none of the adults around him put his well being first," wrote John Canzano, a columnist for the Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Ore. "This ultimately rests with parents who should tell children who want to participate in dangerous activities, 'I love you too much to let you risk your life.'"
Really? Then should we keep our kids from playing football, baseball or basketball, swimming, going to the beach? Maybe we should just keep them indoors to protect them from any risk at all. "With youth sports ... there are injuries from time to time and there are fatalities from time to time," speedway spokesman Fred Nation said. "But when you have them in an organized sport, in a controlled environment and safety people around, we think that's a lot safer than having kids running around on four-wheelers through the woods."
It's already been two years since my son, Isaak, started racing quarter midget cars at the age of 5. Would I pull him out now because racing is dangerous for kids? Absolutely not. Isaak drives almost 40 mph around a 1/10-mile asphalt track with more than half a dozen other drivers. Yes, it can be dangerous, and he's been in many wrecks and crashes. But he's well-protected: double-layer Nomex fire suit, SFI-rated helmet, gloves and neck brace, plus an extra helmet restraining system, five-point seatbelt, and a chassis frame around him. He receives training regularly. His family/crew works hard to keep the cars in top shape.
Granted, Lenz was on a motorcycle and lacked the protection Isaak has. But for their class of racing, they had the best safety equipment. Is a 13-year-old too young to race bikes? I think he and his family understood the risks as do most racers. Driver safety is always a top priority. But accidents happen.
I do hope this tragic event will prompt all motorsports sanctioning bodies to review their safety policies. But to condemn and vilify an entire sport because of a rare incident is wrong.
~ Lyra Solochek, Times mom
[Photo: Peter Lenz]
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