When kids first get into a kart, they usually start out slowly, with great caution. The combination of noise, speed and reactions required to keep the kart heading in the right direction, means some kids will be at the limit of sensory overload just driving around the track.
With some additional time on the track, the reaction time for the kids improves, their capacity to deal with the number of things going on increases and they become faster and more confident. What kids don't know at this point, is "Where the limit is", so they will roam around the track at a very safe speed, well below what the karts are capable of.
At some point, the kids are involved in their first accident. Most commonly, they get a little faster, misjudge a turn and clip a wall or safety barrier. It is common for the kids to hit the same "sensory overload" when it starts to go wrong and they become a passenger until the kart stops. The karts are designed to deal with these kinds of impacts, so kids are rarely hurt when this happens. When everything stops, a couple of amazing things happen:
The kids realise they just had an accident and they didn't get hurt
There is a small amount of damage to the kart, which the mechanics quickly repair
A new level of confidence is achieved
Parent's typically react in one of two ways:
1. Parents check the child is OK, authorise the repairs and get the child back on the track.
These kids gain a whole new confidence that they can search for the limit, knowing they are unlikely to be hurt, even if it goes wrong.
2. Parents check the child is OK, scald the child for being careless, spend time telling the child how much all the repairs cost and the need to be more careful.
These kids lose confidence, slow down and generally go backwards. It takes a much longer time for them to rebuild confidence, sufficient to break through this development phase.
The thrill and the skill of motor sport, is the ability to find the limits. Having a crash, understanding that they didn't get hurt, feeling the support from their parents. All of these things help kids quickly find their limits and progress in the sport.
After their first crash or two, they no longer panic and shut down when heading into an accident. They are able to make decision, take action, stay calm and deal with the situation. It is these skills that set kids up in life to deal with the complex situations they will face as they grow. They become the ones that stay calm and make rapid decisions, when others panic.
For these reasons, I say that having an accident or two in a kart can be a really good thing.
Stu is one of the team principals at Italcorse Asia and his 9 year old son races with the team.