Regulations scrutinized after SpeedVegas deaths

Updated June 25, 2017 - 12:00 am

The crash that killed two men at the SpeedVegas racetrack south of Las Vegas in February sparked conversations within the Clark County Board of Commissioners about regulating high-risk attractions.

But what kind of regulations would have helped to prevent the outcome in the SpeedVegas case?

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said it feels nearly impossible to come up with regulations to fit a constantly evolving group of thrill attractions. On top of that, he said, there are challenges with having the resources and manpower with the right know-how to regulate each attraction.

New Jersey is one of the few states, if not the only one, that has staff with know-how and regulations for racetrack activities, including driving experiences that operate out of a licensed racing facility.

But even its regulations, managed by the state police, likely would not have changed the fates of the two men who died at the SpeedVegas driving experience, said Matthew Kowalski, who leads the Motor Vehicle Racing Control Squad of the New Jersey State Police.

“Without knowing the facts behind the case, there is nothing that we have in our book that would have protected them,” Kowalski said.

The crash

A tourist, 37-year-old real estate agent Craig Sherwood of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, climbed into the driver’s seat of an orange Lamborghini Aventador on Feb. 12 after a safety briefing with 59-year-old Gil Ben-Kely, a SpeedVegas instructor, in the passenger seat.

On one of the laps, the car traveled at more than 100 mph on the track’s longest straightaway paralleling Interstate 15. It then failed to negotiate an S curve, spun out of control and slammed into a barrier, where the car burst into flames, killing both occupants.

Reporting by the Las Vegas Review-Journal discovered several factors that may have contributed to the crash, including a lack of regulation. None of the elements of the fast-car experience — the tracks, the cars, the instructors, the emergency response — is overseen by any local, state or federal regulators. Critics might say tracks, cars or instructors are unsafe, but if the management of a company disagrees, there’s nothing stopping it from operating any way its management wants.

The Jersey way

New Jersey state law gives the state police the authority to write and implement regulations pertaining to racetrack activity.

Kowalski said New Jersey’s regulations arose out of a sort of drag-racing culture around the 1950s, when there were “small facilities where you could take your car and race on any given weekend.”

“There were a lot of accidents, where cars would run off the track and kill several people who were standing along the edge of the track because there was no fencing. There were no requirements at all,” Kowalski said. “So, back then, somebody took the initiative to say, ‘Look, this is dangerous. People are dying. We need to do something about it.’”


New Jersey racing regulations

Currently, according to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety’s motor vehicle racetrack regulations, each driving experience, or any “operation” or “track” or “place” at which “motor vehicle races” are conducted, along with “exhibitions of motor vehicle driving,” must apply for a license.

New Jersey state police can only regulate driving experiences that take place at licensed racing facilities, like a speedway.

Regulations call for inspections of every fixed racing facility at the beginning of every racing season, and then random inspections throughout the season, to ensure operations and equipment compliance.

For example, spectators must be in a designated area at least 25 feet from the “designated safety feature,” which can include things like concrete walls and tire barriers, which must be “constructed and maintained so as to afford maximum protection for spectators and participants.”

Seat belts must be valid for about two years after the manufacture date on the belt.

Rollover protection is required “for all open cockpit or convertible vehicles,” and the regulations spell out the type of roll bar padding required.

Design and construction of the road course must be approved before it is constructed or altered.

Limitations

Although the New Jersey regulations look at road course construction, Kowalski said the focus is mostly on spectators.

“We just reference the DOT (Department of Transportation) guidelines for the construction regulations,” Kowalski said. “Barriers that are there aren’t to protect the drivers. Barriers are there to protect the spectators.”

While New Jersey has implemented regulations pertaining to racetrack activity, Kowalski said a lot of the responsibility is still placed on the driving experience.

“We know these are rising in popularity, and we know there’s issues there,” Kowalski said. He said he is looking into ways to better regulate driving experiences, like calling for more instructor vetting and adding more stipulations like increased driver safety protocols and restricting the speed limit on a track.

“You can’t regulate it completely in my eyes, but you can try to make it safer,” he said.

In too deep

Sisolak said he believes the county and not the state should be involved in regulating attractions in Nevada, but he thinks it’s too expensive to put on the plate of the Metropolitan Police Department.

“The county is doing its best to adopt regulations that protect the public,” Sisolak said. “As the industry evolves, we will continue to do our best to update regulations as new attractions come to be keeping in mind that public safety is of paramount concern.” However, the county is not currently adopting any specific regulations related to driving experiences or other thrill attractions.

“There are always attractions coming in, and frankly, these folks are two, three steps ahead of us,” he said.

He cited a Las Vegas attraction called Machine Gun Helicopters. It opened in June, offering “a true helicopter door gunner experience to the public.” The experience will allow guests to “live out their first-person shooter video game fantasies in Las Vegas” with a fully automatic belt-fed M249 SAW machine gun and multiple groups of targets.

“You got me with that one,” Sisolak said.

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
NFR dirt is the most important part of the rodeo
NFR has bull riding, saddle bronc, barrel racing, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, and bareback riding but one of the most important part of the rodeo according to construction maintenance manager Allen Rheinheimer is the dirt that they all take place in. Review-Journal sports writer Ed Graney chats with Rheinheimer and ground man John Jamison to get an inside look at the dirt in Thomas & Mack at the National Finals Rodeo.
North Las Vegas Pedestrian-cyclist Survey
North Las Vegas officials are seeking comments from residents in hopes of bettering their experience in the city. An online survey has been set up for citizens to share their opinions and give their suggestions.
NFR Day 8 Highlights
Highlights from round 8 of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas, Nevada. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
NFR - Wyatt Denny Talks About Representing Nevada
NFR Bareback Rider Wyatt Denny talks to host Cassie Soto about being the only Nevada representative in the NFR this year and his skiing talent.
Junior NFR Offers Breakaway Roping for Girls
Unlike the NFR at the Thomas and Mack Center, the Junior NFR at the Las Vegas Convention Center offers breakaway roping for girls 19-and under. This event allows the young women of rodeo one more event to participate in, aside from barrel racing.
North Las Vegas Pedestrian-Cyclist Survey
North Las Vegas officials are seeking comments from residents in hopes of bettering their experience in the city. An online survey has been set up for citizens to share their opinions and give their suggestions.
NFR Day 7 Highlights
Highlights from the 7th go-round of the 2018 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
NFR- Jessica Routier
NFR Barrel Racer Jessica Routier talks about being at her first NFR, her horses, and her family with Cassie Soto in front of Thomas & Mack before round 7 of the National Finals Rodeo.
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
NFR Day 6 Highlights
Highlights from the 6th go-round of the 2018 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
Las Vegas Bowl Teams Talk Shop at Maverick Helicopters
Arizona State, Fresno State talk to the media at Maverick Helicopters.
NFR- Will Lowe
NFR Bareback Rider Will Lowe talks with Aaron Drawhorn about his 15 years at the NFR, starting to ride at age 7, and renewing his wedding vowels this year in Las Vegas before night 6 of the National Finals Rodeo.
Veterans Village
Veterans Village and Veterans Village II were created to assist homeless veterans get back on their feet. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday party cocktails
Veterans Village II Unveils Model Container Home
Veteran's Village II unveiled a model container home. The organization will be building 10 of these container homes to house veterans of the village. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
NFR Day 5 Highlights
NFR Day 5 Highlights
NFR- Kory Koontz
NFR Team Roper Kory Koontz talks about his years at the event since 1992, his dynamic with a 23 year old partner Dustin Egusquiza, and how he contines to perform with diabetes with Aaron Drawhorn outside of Thomas & Mack before round 5 of the National Rodeo Finals.
Meet the woman behind the Las Vegas Bowl
Melissa Meacham-Grossman is the associate executive director for the Las Vegas Bowl. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NFR Highlights Day 4
NFR highlights day 4
NFR Introduces Golden Circle Of Champions
For the first time, the National Finals Rodeo has partnered with the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo to offer the Golden Circle of Champions. The event brings in 20 children and their families from around the country that have previously or are currently fighting life-threatening cancer.
NFR Time Lapse 2018
Watch Thomas & Mack Center transform from a basketball court to an arena fit for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Video courtesy of Las Vegas Events.
RJ's Mark Anderson on the UNLV loss
Review-Journal sports reporter Mark Anderson recaps UNLV's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Joel Ntambwe on performance against Illinois
UNLV forward Joel Ntambwe talks about the 18 points he scored against Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Amauri Hardy on loss at Illinois
UNLV guard Amauri Hardy talks about Saturday's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Marvin Menzies on loss at Illinois
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about Saturday's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Baby Roman's mother and his doctor talk about his medical condition
Baby Roman's mother and his doctor talk about his medical condition. Roman was born Dec. 13, 2017 and has been at Sunrise Children Hospital with a rare heart condition since. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
NFR 2018: Unique Gifts At Cowboy Christmas
Before you head over to the Thomas and Mack for NFR, be sure to check out some of the unique and one of a kind items at Cowboy Christmas!
NFR: Dale Brisby
Day two of the National Finals Rodeo has started and Premier Vegas Sports host Cassies Soto interviews social media influencer Super Puncher Dale Brisby.
103-year-old celebrates birthday at gym
Joe Rosa of Las Vegas celebrated his 103rd birthday celebration at 24 Hour Fitness in Summerlin Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. After being the victim of a hit-and-run crash, Rosa's medical team told him he would never walk again. Rosa credits physical therapy and a personal trainer at the club for his return to health. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson native Mason Clements finished second in NFR bareback go-round
Mason Clements discusses his second-place bareback ride on opening night of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec 6, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Business
Holiday Parade Lights Up Downtown Summerlin
Holiday parade lights up Downtown Summerlin every Friday and Saturday night through Dec. 22.
Nevada's solar industry on the rebound
In 2015, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted in favor of a new tariff structure that reduced net energy metering buyback rates and increased fix fees for residential solar customers.
Apartment complexes selling fast in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ apartment vacancy rate is among the smallest in the country, and rents are climbing faster than the national average. (LVRJ)
Aristocrat Opens $45M Campus In Summerlin
Aristocrat Technologies Chairman Ian Blackburne discusses the company's growth. (LVRJ)
Sunrise Hospital celebrates 60 years
Sunrise Hospital opened its doors to patients on Dec. 15, 1958. Employees of more than 35 years celebrated at a luncheon Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Jessie Bekker/ Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Maya Cinemas to open soon in North Las Vegas
Moctesuma Esparza, CEO of Maya Cinemas, talks about the newest location in North Las Vegas, set to open Jan. 10. The aim of the theatre chain is to serve latino-centric, underserved communities.
Holiday shopping and returns make this the busiest time of year for UPS
The UPS Las Vegas South facility is the company's busiest pre-load operation in the country, and it's even busier this time of year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Primm’s outlet mall has fallen on hard times
The mall, attached to Primm Valley Resort, opened in 1998. Back then, it was a “textbook, perfect outlet-center location." But now, Primm’s outlet mall has fallen on hard times. Las Vegas Boulevard has endless shopping spots. And there are other outlet malls that don’t require a hefty drive to the state line. Its mortgage-holder foreclosed on the mall in late September.
Miltary auction at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
Humvees, ammo cans, construction equipment, field gear and more is on the auction block Friday and Saturday at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. About 10,000 items in all are for sale in what GovPlanet bills as the largest auction of its kind.
Las Vegas residents discuss avoiding holiday scams
Las Vegas residents discuss their donation habits and how they avoid giving money to scam charities during the holiday season. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory ahead of economic impact expectations
The Tesla Gigafactory’s economic impact on Nevada has exceeded projections, bringing in more than 7,000 jobs. In 2014, Nevada agreed to give the automotive and energy company $1.3 billion in tax abatements. In return, Tesla promised to meet certain requirements in areas like employment and capital investment. As of June, Tesla has brought in a total of $6.05 billion in capital investment, surpassing the $4.95 billion projection. The original contract gave the company until 2024 to make $3.5 billion in capital investments in Nevada. Derek Armstrong, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Land sales near the Las Vegas Raiders stadium
Land around the Las Vegas stadium site has been selling for high prices. A few months before the stadium’s groundbreaking, Global Trust Group acquired a 2.5-acre parcel just north of the stadium site. The property sold for $7.25 million, or $2.9 million an acre. Osprey Real Estate Capital and Huntington Hotel Group acquired a 2-acre industrial site just west of the stadium site in late November. The property sold for $6.5 million, or $3.15 million per acre. That's roughly 12 times the average price of land in the valley this year as tracked by Colliers International.
T-Mobile Tech Experience Truck parks in Toshiba Plaza at T-Mobile Arena
The Tech Experience Truck is a state-of-the-art showroom on wheels, with demonstrations that put connected drones, smart cities, augmented/virtual reality and smart tracking. The exhibit shows new wireless technology – including 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Steve Siegel, CEO of the Siegel Group, speaks about helping families and other needy residents
Steve Siegel, CEO of the Siegel Group, speaks about helping families and other needy residents to keep them from teetering off into homelessness. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vrgas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Crowds camp out for Chick-fil-A opening
Dozens of customers camped out 24 hours ahead of the 6 a.m. Thursday opening of the new Chick-fil-A on Rainbow Blvd.
Cheapest listings for sale in Las Vegas
Listed for $39,990, 585 S. Royal Crest Circle, Unit #9 is one of the cheapest homes currently listed for sale in Las Vegas. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Terry Miller discusses Convention Center
Project Manager Terry Miller explains the phases of Convention Center construction.
Zappos treats their team members on Cyber Monday
Zappos rolls out a variety of food, drinks and special activities for all team members at their downtown Las Vegas headquarters for Cyber Monday. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Team Hybrid at the 2019-Model Motor Trend International Auto Show
Among the companies showing off the 2019 model cars, Team Hybrid shows off its modified cars. Las Vegas resident David David talks about the team, which is in its ninth year exhibiting at the show, and his show car.
Black Friday Shoppers at downtown Summerlin and at the Arsenal
Black Friday shoppers at downtown Summerlin and at the Arsenal. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfYe
Black Friday shopping in Las Vegas
Black Friday sale shopers express their shopping experience. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas Livestock recycling Strip food waste
Las Vegas Livestock collects and recycles food from many Las Vegas Strip companies. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Friday at Fry's
Shoppers line up for deals early on Black Friday at Fry's Electronics on Las Vegas Boulevard South. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Friday shoppers at Best Buy at 5 am
Black Friday shoppers at Best Buy at 5 am on Nov. 23. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Black Friday - 1am Closing Time
Quiet night.
Black Friday - 12:30am - Best Buy Arroyo Crossing
Sam's Town Holiday Lighting Ceremony
On Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, Mystic Falls Park opened with its annual tree lighting ceremony, hosted by Boyd Gaming Executive Chairman Bill Boyd. The attraction features a Winter Wonderland theme and holiday-inspired laser light show, available daily Nov. 23 to Jan. 1. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What Is A Smart City?
George Karayannis, vice president of CityNow, Panasonic’s smart-city arm, explains. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Walmart uses virtual reality to train employees
Walmart Academy Facilitator demonstrates the VR training program being used by Walmart stores across the country.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like