As Autosport reports, the device was developed by Hubbard and race car driver Jim Downing in the early 1980s to prevent race track fatalities caused by basilar skull fractures. These happened due to insufficient head restraints even in relatively minor shunts, including the fatal 1981 accident of Renault works driver Patrick Jacquemart, a friend of Downing. A patent for the device was first filed in 1985, and Downing wore a prototype at the final IMSA race of the 1986 season in Daytona.
The finalized device was first marketed in 1991. Later, the developers got big U.S. automakers such as General Motors and Ford onboard, and the tragic losses of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in Formula One in 1994 led to more interest from race officials; F1 ended up adopting the device in 2003. A chilling addition to the HANS saga is that the death of Dale Earnhardt boosted HANS sales from a mere 250 to 3,000 in 2001.
However, it’s not just top-tier racing such as F1 that benefits from the use of the device: It’s a welcome addition at non-professional track days as well, and everything in between. HANS devices built by Simpson range from under $500 to a little over $1,000, and as life insurance goes, that is a pretty modest expense.