a car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impact

a car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impact

a car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impact

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The force of impact would most likely be considered as doubled when a car is impacting another car on a head-on collision.

 A car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impactA car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impact.

Does Doubling the Speed Of A Vehicle On A Highway Only Double The Impact Force of an Accident?

We’ve all seen the Hollywood blockbusters like Bad Boys 2 and the Fast and the Furious franchise, so we know a good car crash when we see one. However, in real life, car accidents cause major loss of life and are extremely costly all around the world!

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Millions of car accidents happen on this planet, ranging from fender benders at stoplights to huge pileups on highways on the slippery roads of winter. You’ve probably seen or heard of hundreds of car accidents in your life, and may have even been involved in one yourself.

One thing I always notice is how much more serious highway accidents seem to be versus urban accidents. They’re both terrible, don’t get me wrong, but highway crashes seems to be much more devastating than urban accidents.

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a car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impact
a car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impact

 

As Always… Physics Comes Into Play

Whenever we talk about moving objects, from galaxies billions of light years away to a marble moving across a table, the language we use is physics. Therefore, when discussing car accidents, there’s no way to avoid doing a bit of math – or at least understanding some!

When you are driving a car, you are moving forward at a certain velocity due to varying acceleration and braking. Therefore, a car accident of any kind is primarily concerned with Newton’s Third Law of Motion and the work energy principle. The amount of force that your car and body experiences based on these laws and principles determines how much danger you are in.

Newton’s Third Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you punch a concrete wall, it hurts your hand because essentially, the concrete wall punched back!

On a related note, the work energy principle states that the work done on an object is equal to its change in it’s kinetic energy. When the wall changes the amount of energy of your fist moving forward, it does an equal amount of “work” on your knuckles.

Now, when we apply these broad concepts to a moving car hitting an object (another driver, a median, a light pole), we start to understand just what a car accident can do.

To analyze this example, first we need to consider the kinetic energy with which the car is moving. The equation for kinetic energy for the car is:

The object stopping this car will have to do some work which should be equivalent to the Kinetic Energy of the car. Now if the car stops at a distance “d” (after the crash) then the equation for Force is:

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When we plug in the variables of an average car, with a mass of roughly 1.6 tons, we find that a large amount of force is created even from slow-moving vehicles.

a car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impact
a car impacting another car head-on will double the force of impact

Imagine a car is moving at 30 mph (about 50 km/hr) and strikes a wall, crumpling and stopping after 1 foot. Let’s assume that the car weighs 3200 pounds (about 1450 kgs). By calculating the initial kinetic energy of the car and the force required by a wall/tree/driver to stop a car, we find that the total force of that impact is roughly 48 tons per sq foot.

If you have a head-on collision with another car moving the same speed, but from the opposite direction, then the kinetic energy doubles (because the other car also has the same kinetic energy) and thus the force doubles. In that case the total impact is roughly 96 tons per sq ft.

 

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