As background reading can I recommend The science of safety by David Tremayne, Haynes, 2,000, ISBN 1 85960 664 4. This covers the whole spectrum of the development of safety awareness and safety-related regulations in motor racing since World War 2, particularly in Formula 1. It will help you put Senna's fatal accident into perspective...
As well as this book (and perhaps easier to find on the cheap) get the late Professor Sid Watkins first book - "Life At The Limit". As well as covering the incident itself, it explains the fallout, and has a host of appendices with relevant facts and forms. As well as the 'politically driven changes" (very public revisions showing something was being done) and the practical developments (changes to car and track design) you will see that the , perhaps most importantly, there was a cultural change. Sid was basically given carte blanche by Bernie to do whatever it took. Analysis of all accidents was increased (as Steve at the top may be able to explain), and the sport as a whole became more pro-active in identifying risks and pushing safety improvements. Highlights would be:
- Frontal and side impact tests that are pretty astonishing
- Cockpit side protection foam
- Enforcement of the HANS device
- Removable seat assembly (preventing spinal injuries on extraction)
- Wheel tethers
- All cars are fitted with a high standard black box system for recording incidents.
- The FIA running their own lab tests (crash tests and the like) with actual chassis to establish firm data.
The point being that for the last 15-odd years, safety changes have been introduced because of 'science', not as a response to an accident. And those changes (many, such as the side impact tests getting repeatedly tougher, no noticed by the general public) are based on good, reliable data, not blind guesses. I would argue that that pro-active approach has put the sport far ahead of all of the high risk sports - rugby, skiing, NHL and NFL (despite their recent progress), with only Indycars in a similar league.