Vehicle safety

The fact that doubling a vehicle’s speed will make its braking distance four times greater is not obvious, but clearly young drivers, as many of your students will be, need to understand this. They also need to know what the factors are that affect a driver’s reaction time and those that affect the braking force that brings a vehicle to a halt. You can use this simple reaction timer to find your students’ reaction times and tell them how to calculate their thinking distance when travelling at a speed of 10ms-1.

When a vehicle undergoes a large deceleration in a collision, students need to realise how large the forces are that act on passengers in the car. They need to be able to apply the correct physics principles to explain this and hence explain the safety measures used such as seat belts, air bags and crumple zones. This video makes the case for seatbelts and air bags.

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance.

Links and Resources

Girls in Physics

Although the purpose of this video is to give guidance to teachers on how to tailor lessons to encourage girls’ participation, its context is how stopping distance is affected by vehicle speed. The video is therefore useful on two counts; watch it and use the ideas covered to plan a similar lesson for your students whilst ensuring that you teach inclusively.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Episode 215: Forces on Vehicles

The demonstration practical in this resource always goes down well with students. Practise it beforehand and use it as part of a lesson to show how a seat belt is used to fix occupants to the vehicle so that when it slows down they do too, rather than colliding violently with the front of the vehicle when it stops abruptly. The student questions can be set at the end of the lesson as preparation for a following lesson.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Reaction times

A reaction timer is more than just a stopwatch. In this task your students have to design a reliable way to measure how fast a person reacts. To complete the task they must collect data and present it in a meaningful way.

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Crash Test Dummies: the Marc Bolan Crash

In this activity the point is made that the new Mini is probably a safer car than the original Mini. Your students will enjoy choosing a car and deciding what extras they want to put on it. Will they choose wisely? As they have to present to one another and justify, their decisions their peers will be the judges.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Crash Investigators

To use this article take the information provided and present it to your students. You could lay out the crash scene to scale or draw it on the board. Make up data cards, hint cards and background information cards. Let your students work in groups on different parts of the analysis and bring them together to reach a conclusion or let them work as competing groups with the same information and let them present their findings to you. You will need a double lesson for this activity.

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Transporters

Although a little dated, this textbook has some good ideas and activities that you can make into lessons on this topic. Unit 3 on page 18 is called ‘Safe Journeys’ which looks at safety features like seatbelts and crumple zones. You could use the suggestions for your students to carry out an investigation into crumple zones.

publication year
1990 - 1999

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