The Science of Safety

Regardless of what a driver does to get into a pickle, what happens next is generally predictable. Sir Isaac Newton mapped it all out in the 17th century. Newton’s three laws of motion (slightly modified for a 21st century teeming with cars and trucks) tell us that out of control vehicles in motion continue moving until they hit something. In any collision, the rate of deceleration is directly proportional to the impacting force and inversely proportional to the weight of the vehicle and its contents. Every force applied to a colliding vehicle results in expensive damage plus an equal and opposite force—and damage applied to the object it hits.

We know that last law all too well from experience, but let’s see how Newton’s principles can shed light on specific safety situations.


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