- 1 Helmets Protect Children in Open-Top Karts
- 2 Gloves Can Help with Gripping the Steering Wheel
- 3 Chest Protectors Offer Cushion in Case of Crashes
- 4 The Right Shoes Provide Grip and Support
- 5 Neck Braces Reduce Whiplash
- 6 A Racing Suit Can Protect the Skin
- 7 Elbow and Knee Pads for Extra Protection
- 8 Precautions to Remember Beyond Safety Equipment
- 9 Conclusion
Go-karting is a great way to introduce the world of racing to any child. The sport gives them the feel, on a smaller scale, of what drivers experience in real-time in sports like NASCAR and other racing events.
However, like with any sport, there are inherent risks involved, which means youths who are racing should be wearing and using go-kart safety equipment and be compliment by go-kart safety standards.
When go-karting, children should utilize safety gear and equipment such as helmets, gloves, chest protectors, closed-toed shoes, neck braces, racing suits, and elbow and knee pads.
These items and more are essential to keeping the driver and others on the track safe while racing in karts. In the remainder of the article, we’ll cover a few of the most critical pieces of safety equipment and gear children should use while go-karting. We’ll also discuss a few safety tips for you and your child to remember before hitting the racetrack.
Helmets Protect Children in Open-Top Karts
The first piece of safety equipment to protect anyone racing go-karts is the helmet; they are almost a standard piece of safety equipment required at all racing tracks.
Helmets can be especially helpful if the drivers are all racing with open-top karts. The dangers with those karts are that there is no ceiling that can help lessen head trauma injuries. The helmet should give a little protection to the head and neck area if a kart does go airborne and/or flips.
Especially for youths, brain trauma injuries can lead to a lifetime of challenges, depending on how severe the injuries are. With a helmet, a driver has a cushion to lessen or prevent injuries to the head.
The helmet might be the most expensive item on your list of go-kart safety equipment and can cost up to $150 in some cases. For that reason, for youths, choosing a helmet that fits is essential, although mobility and ventilation are also important.
To find the right fit for a helmet, your child will need to try on as many different brands, shapes, and sizes until you find the best one. Naturally, trying on and making sure the helmet fits is the biggest hassle, but it can be a lifesaver.
The ideal helmet will feel snug around the ears and forehead areas of the head. Have your young driver test the helmet by turning their head to the left and right rapidly to ensure the helmet won’t slip or move.
Mobility is also essential, as you will want your child to move their head without restrictions.
Weight can have an impact on mobility, depending on how young the person driving is. Like the fit-test, they should be able to turn their head left and right without any resistance from the helmet.
For the ventilation, some helmets, especially the cheaper ones, won’t have as much ventilation as others. Poor ventilation can cause a driver to have shortness of breath and lead to dizziness and possibly fainting.
The only real way to test a helmet’s ventilation is to have the driver wear the helmet for an extended period and see how well they do with their breathing.
You could also have the driver wear the helmet and have them go for a short run to get their breathing going quicker. Then determine if the helmet is restricting their breathing in any way.
Not sure where to start on your helmet search? If you already know what type of helmet and size you need, Amazon has a wide selection to choose from, including:
If you are not looking to spend a lot of money on a helmet, check out these cheap helmets I reviewed.
Gloves Can Help with Gripping the Steering Wheel
Gloves are more of an accessory than an actual piece of go-kart safety equipment, but they can serve multiple purposes. For one, go-karting for younger kids can make them feel like real racecar drivers; real racecar drivers wear gloves, so having the kid wear gloves while go-karting can enhance the experience.
Along with that, some kids might get sweaty hands when racing, so gloves are great for helping maintain the same grip on the steering wheel lap after lap. Go-kart racing gloves also reduce the chances of the wheel slipping from their hands. Sweaty hands could lead to them crashing into other drivers or the sides of the track.
Most racing gloves can range from $20-40 for youth sizes. Depending on how much your child grows, you may have to buy multiple pairs at varying sizes to get the right fit. Ensure the gloves you choose have grips on the fingers or fingertips to help your child’s hands hold onto the kart’s steering wheel.
Amazon has a good selection of gloves, including these:
Chest Protectors Offer Cushion in Case of Crashes
Chest protectors are another essential piece of racing equipment that you need to have, especially if you are serious about racing. Like other safety gear, the chest protector is necessary in case of difficult situations like crashes.
The largest part of the human body in potential danger in a go-kart crash is the chest or upper body area. The chest protector is designed to lessen the impact between the driver and the kart should any trouble occur. Additionally, chest protectors protect the driver’s sides/rib areas in case of any side impact.
With that in mind, there are a few key things to look out for when purchasing a chest protector for a youth driver.
Go-karts are bare-bones machines by design, so all the drivers’ safety gear must be on the person. As a result, the chest protector you choose should be comfortable for your child to wear and offer mobility while also fitting correctly.
The chest protectors on the market currently are all mostly adjustable, which is excellent in more ways than one. The adjustability is also great for your wallet because there is a good chance your child can use the same chest protector for numerous years on end without having to get a new one due to a growth spurt.
The Right Shoes Provide Grip and Support
For any novice go-kart racer, using regular tennis or athletic shoes would be the best option. But if your child is a more advanced go-kart driver, there are a few specialized shoes that you can investigate for them to feel safer and like a better driver.
When looking for shoes to potentially wear when go-karting, there are a couple of things to look for:
The first would be to find shoes with good ankle support. When you drive, you move your foot on your heel like a fulcrum, from one pedal to the other.
It is the same for go-karts, but at a more frenetic pace, as drivers are pushing their karts as much as they can. So braking and hitting the gas is more frequent and at a more demanding rate. Ankle support is necessary to ensure your child’s foot is secure and does not undergo strain when switching between pedals.
Another thing to look for is a thick sole on the underside of the shoe. The constant wear and tear of pushing on the pedals can lead to less grip and potential holes in the bottom of the shoes, leading to performance issues. After all, the last thing you want is for your child is their feet to slip on pedals and accidentally break or accelerate in the middle of a heated race when they mean to do the opposite.
There are few brands to look for when it comes to karting shoes, but Amazon has a good selection:
If you are looking for a cheaper option than real go-kart racing shoes, wrestling shoes have been known to have the same qualities as go-karting shoes for a much lower price. This will also help if the young driver continues racing for multiple years as you won’t be spending as much money on each pair of shoes.
Wrestling shoes like the ones below will work just as well for about half the price:
Otherwise, most authentic go-karting shoes can cost up to $125 a pair, which can be costly if your child continues to outgrow their shoes.
Neck Braces Reduce Whiplash
The karting neck brace is a newer addition to the go-kart safety equipment basket. As the years have passed, more race sites require neck braces to be worn by drivers to provide more protection. With more raceways requiring neck braces, it is not a bad idea to buy one specifically for your youth racer.
The neck brace is vital along with the helmet to prevent any traumatic head or brain injuries. The neck brace specifically aims to reduce and prevent any whiplash that may occur during crashes in races.
If you do not want to spend money on a neck brace, most raceways will have ones that racers can rent. The only downside to this is that the neck brace may not fit your child as perfectly as it can, which can leave room for potential dangers in crashes. It is always better to buy any piece of go-karting safety equipment for a regular youth driver, just so they are comfortable with it before they step into the go-kart.
Most neck braces for go-karting can go for $30-50 on Amazon, so you do not necessarily have to break the bank to buy these. K1 is a great find, and cheaper than most of the other brands for neck braces. EVS is another more affordable brand to look for in neck braces.
A Racing Suit Can Protect the Skin
Racing suits have a multitude of purposes for any racer at any level. The racing suits to look for when it comes to youth drivers are not the ones you will see NASCAR drivers wear, but they serve essentially the same purpose.
The first purpose of a racing suit is to protect the driver from the elements outside of the go-kart. If any debris flies up from the track, the racing suit will protect your child’s skin from feeling it. Along with that, should there be any crash, racing suits are skin-savers and prevent any road rash that might occur otherwise.
The suit should fit your child just like regular clothes, as long as they can fit any extra protection gear (such as a chest protector) over it. Make sure the suit also allows for movement and breathability.
For the most part, these suits can range in price, but there are a few you can find on Amazon for as little as $45. Alpinestars is an excellent racing brand to look for all your go-kart safety equipment needs, but there are more inexpensive suits available. OMP is another brand of racing suit that you can find on Amazon.
Elbow and Knee Pads for Extra Protection
The final part of the protection detail for youth go-kart racers is the pads. Most drivers prefer to go with elbow pads to ensure protection on their arms, but some drivers can opt for knee pads.
The pads are primarily used to help a driver feel safe when it comes to a crash; they help prevent any road rash or any other scrapes that may come about when racing.
The problem most kids have with pads is the fact that some can be a little bulky, which can lead to issues when driving. For that reason, be sure the pads, both for elbows and knees, do not interfere with how your child can steer and press the pedals. Adjustable pads are always a good way to go.
When shopping for elbow and knee pads, Sparco is the go-to brand for pads specifically used in go-karting.
Precautions to Remember Beyond Safety Equipment
When it comes to our youth’s safety, there is no such thing as too much safety gear or too many precautions. Keeping your child safe, especially during potentially dangerous activities like go-karting, goes beyond just having them wear a helmet and some pads.
Beyond using the right go-kart safety equipment, there are plenty of safety tips to keep in mind:
- As we mentioned earlier, each racetrack will have its own set of rules and regulations to follow. For the most part, these can be as simple as “do not pass too closely,” or “do not drift around corners.” Be sure you and your child read and follow all the rules and regulations set forth by each track.
- Try to keep your child’s hair tied within their helmet or cut short. Long hair not contained within the helmet could get caught on the kart and lead to injury if there’s a crash.
- Like in regular cars, always wear a seatbelt when racing to help prevent catastrophic injuries during crashes.
- Make sure your child understands what to do in the event of a kart crash. Teach them to keep their legs and arms inside the kart to avoid severe injury. It also helps if they know the proper way to sit within the kart while driving.
- If your child is watching someone else race, remind them to never go into the track during the event. Most go-karting locations will have a spectator section where they can safely observe the race.
- Before and after a race, be sure to remind your child to drink water. This is to ensure that they can function and focus during the race(s).
Youth go-karting is an excellent way to introduce the sport of racing to younger potential racers. It allows kids to feel like professional drivers without the high speeds and extreme dangers of it. However, there are still certain dangers of go-karting that make it worth investing in safety equipment.
Buying the right safety gear can be useful in keeping any youth driver safe. Helmets and neck braces are essential in preventing or lessening any whiplash that can happen during crashes. For protecting the body, having the youth driver wear a chest protector, pads, and a racing suit helps prevent any road rash or debris from flying up and hurting the driver.
Beyond all the safety gear to buy to protect your child, ensure that they know all the rules that each go-kart raceway has posted. The rules are there to ensure that all racers and the spectators are safe during a race.
In conclusion, as long as your young go-kart driver wears the proper go-kart safety equipment and adheres to the rules set by the go-karting establishment you go to, they can remain protected and safe and focus on having fun!