By Ashley Price
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The safer motorcycle racing events become, the more people will feel comfortable joining the ranks of Americans who enjoy competition sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association, AMA Motocross Manager Ricky Rickords said Thursday.
During an open discussion with promoters, track owners and racers during the first day of AIMExpo at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Rickords drew on his experience working with the Brett Downey Safety Foundation and as safety manager for the AMA Supercross Series.
"If the sport is safer, it's going to grow," Rickords told the group. "Our sport is progressing rapidly, and we need to progress along with it in safety aspects, as well. If Mom comes out to the track and sees that her son is taken care of and he is safe, she's going to want to keep bringing him back."
The Brett Downey Safety Foundation was started after a young racer, Brett Downey, crashed in a motocross race and passed away because there weren't any flaggers to indicate Downey's crash to other racers. After the incident, the Downey family started the foundation to help make things safer by educating flaggers and putting emphasis on safety precautions.
"It's hard to train flaggers," Rickords said. "Our goals are to focus on consistency in teaching flaggers and making sure they are educated on what they are doing, and also to make sure we are talking to flaggers in a constructive and positive way—give them incentives and help them realize they are here to save lives."
In an effort to make things safer, the Brett Downy Safety Foundation created flashing safety lights on tough blocks that allow riders to better see when other racers have crashed or gone down.
Promoters and track owners can apply to get these special flashing track markers for free and control them from an off track location with a remote.
"These not only help our riders, they keep our flaggers safer, as well," Rickords said. "Instead of having a flagger standing at these dangerous points on the track, we have this markers."
According to Rickords, the key to expanding the sport of motocross and making it safer is by having tough conversations about touchy subjects. He plans to continue doing this by working with the Brett Downey Safety Foundation to ensure the safety of the sport and to continue its growth.
"These [racers] are people's brothers, uncles, sisters and dads," Rickords said. "Every flagger should be waving that flag like that's their family member out on the track."