It has been just over a week since stand-up comedian Kevin Hart was involved in a dramatic car accident in his highly-modified SpeedKore-built 1970 Plymouth Barracuda named “Menace”. While we are thankful to have word that Hart has returned home after suffering a severe back injury, the aftermath from the Mulholland Drive crash doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Reports from TMZ state that California officials may use information from the accident as a basis for shaping future vehicle legislation in the Golden State. Which, if you’re a classic muscle car enthusiast, this is not what you want to hear.
The report from TMZ says that the vehicle will be torn down and inspected by the California Highway Patrol to further investigate the cause of the crash as well as regulation changes. The disassembly and investigation of a vehicle after an accident with a major injuries is not an uncommon practice in the United States, with police department forensic experts evaluating the causes of accidents in order to help shape legislation.
However, the high profile nature of this accident further complicates this crash investigation, as CHP likely wants to respond with some form of public action. That action might just be related to the absence of certain safety harnesses requirements for modified vehicles. According to TMZ’s source within the CHP, the end result of their investigation may culminate in a recommendation to the state legislature that would require companies that modify or restore classic vehicles to install five-point safety harnesses. Hart’s 1970 Plymouth Barracuda did not have safety harnesses installed, which the CHP believes resulted in the severity of the occupants injuries. The vehicle did have seat belts, however.
Anybody who understands how five point harnesses work can already see the unwanted ripple effect here. Installing five-point harnesses into these classic cars is expensive, and it doesn’t necessarily make them safer.
It is currently illegal in most states to operate a vehicle on the street with a five-point harness installed, as the harnesses are not DOT approved. Part of the reason for this is the fact that these restraints can increase the risk severe neck and head injuries in a crash where the proper head and neck restraints are not used, meaning if the driver isn’t wearing a helmet clipped to HANS system – which also restricts head and neck movement. In order for this CHP suggestion to actually be implemented by the California legislature, DOT laws will also have to change, and more research into the effectiveness of these harness systems should be done.
Driving a Dodge Demon-powered 1970 Plymouth Barracuda with over 840 horsepower and no traction management systems on Mulholland at night is a terrifying idea, as were the results of that evening. While it is truly amazing that everyone in that car was able to walk away with their lives, that crash may end up costing all of the classic car owners and builders in California.