Crashing a Jet Dragster at 300 mph Proves Fatal for 3

Car crashes can be one of the scariest things that happen in our life. Whether it’s our car or someone we love, car accidents can be terrifying and even fatal. No matter the cause, crashing a car at any speed isn’t ideal, but as drivers, we have a general understanding of how speed affects the severity of a crash. With highway crashes at higher-speeds seeming more deadly, it’s hard to imagine how devastating crashing a car at almost 300 mph could be. But, as you could imagine, a few unlucky souls found this out the not so easy way.

Jet dragster racing

Racing jet dragsters isn’t the most popular motorsport out there. While Americans love to watch Nascar races and Formula 1, jet dragster just don’t get people as excited. Considering the jaw-dropping speed that jet-dragsters race at, it’s surprising that more people aren’t interested in it. To drive a vehicle that goes as fast as a jet-dragster does take a lot more than adrenaline; it takes a lot of skill and practice because when things go wrong, they go very wrong.

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A tragic accident

Most people don’t really spend time thinking about jet dragsters, and probably don’t give much thought to how fast they go, besides just knowing they are ‘fast’. The fastest speed a jet dragster hits is around 300 mph, about 3 times more than what even lead-footed drivers hit on the highway. But, if you’ve ever seen a high-speed car crash, you know that the results are usually fatal, and that isn’t any different in a jet dragster. What is shocking, however, is that none of the fatalities was the driver.

A jet-powered car taking off in a drag race
A jet-powered dragster takes part in The Fast Show performance car event | OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

The fatal crash

On this very day, in 1971, three people were killed in a high-speed jet dragster accident. The New York Times covered the event at the time, reporting 3 fatalities, none of which were the driver of the dragster. The jet dragster was going an estimated 286 mph when a tire failed, causing the driver, Art Arfons, to lose control of the vehicle and slam through the guard rail.

A jet-powered dragster takes part in The Fast Show performance car event held at the Santa Pod Raceway near Wellingborough, central England | OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

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While the driver, Art Arfons, survived the accident, the same couldn’t be said for a TV newsman and two employees of the International Hot Rod Society. Gene Thomas, the TV newsman, was riding in the jet dragster alongside Arfons to record his attempt to reach 300 mph.