It's common for people to consider the head and neck safety device, or HANS device, a millennial item, something developed ten years ago or so. But it was actually conceived after an accident in 1981 and the first prototype was donned in 1986. It sold only sporadically throughout the 90s, but after Dale Earnhardt died in a crash at the 2001 Daytona 500 – coincidentally, of the same injury that lead to the HANS device's creation – it went from oddity to obligation in every major racing series.

Car and Driver looks at the physical numbers behind the device: in a 40g head-on collision, a HANS device can reduce total neck load by about 75 percent, to less than half the force of the injury threshold. That's not bad for a one-pound contraption made of carbon fiber, padding and a fabric-and-polyester strap.

Click here to check out the C/D piece, and follow the jump for some enlightening visuals on just what the HANS device can do. There's a video of a test crash with and without the device fitted, as well as the different kinds available and the story behind them.

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