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Dan Jones
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The Physics of a Head-On Collision

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Most people have heard about, or even witnessed, the enormous effect a head-on collision can have on a vehicle and its occupants.  As the myth goes, when two cars are traveling at the same speed, 60 km/hr. for example, collide head-on, the accident would be the equivalent of a single vehicle colliding with an immovable object at 120 km/hr.

While this seems to make sense, it happens to be false.  Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states “The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear”. Generally speaking, for every reaction, there is an opposite and equal reaction. This means that when two objects traveling at the exact same speed collide with one another, the total amount of energy released would be oppositely and evenly distributed between the two objects.

In essence, this means that if both of the objects are traveling at X km/hr., the final speed would be X times two, however since equal and opposite forces apply, the energy released will be equal to that of a single car colliding with a solid object at X km/hr.

Has Newton’s Third Law of Motion Been Tested?

Newton’s Third Law of Motion was finally tested on the Television show Mythbusters by performing both small and full scale tests on six identical cars in make and model. Note that although miles per hour were used in these tests, the units of measure are not important, simply that the speeds were doubled. The following breaks down the tests and the results:

Test 1: The first test collided one vehicle traveling at 50 MPH into an immovable cement slab, while observing the damage. The test proved to total the vehicle.

Test 2: The second test collided another vehicle traveling at 100 MPH into the same immovable cement slab, while observing the damages. Following the test, the car was barely recognizable.

Test 3: The third test collided two of the vehicles into each other head-on, both traveling at 50 MPH, with a closing speed of 100 MPH. The damage inflicted on each vehicle was the same as the single vehicle colliding with the brick wall at 50 MPH.

Test 4: The final test was to collide the last remaining vehicles into each other head-on traveling at 100 MPH, with a closing speed of 200 MPH.  The damages to the vehicles following this test were the same as test number two when the single vehicle collided with the cement block at 100 MPH.

The results of these four tests proved that Newton’s Third Law of Motion is true, while the myth that the force of impact doubles during a head on collision is a myth and is in fact false. While the myth was proven false, injuries sustained during a head-on collision are typically severe, even at slower speeds of travel.

Hiring an Auto Accident Lawyer

Following a head-on collision, or any type of accident for that matter, the results often cause severe injuries and may severely effect an individual’s every-day life. These individuals may experience a sudden raise in medical expenses, insurance rates, and a great amount of mental anguish. When a person’s health and well-being is severely affected, it may be time to seek legal consultation, as personal injury attorneys will offer a free initial case evaluation.

Without the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer, proving the accident was caused by the negligent actions of another driver may be difficult.  By receiving legal counsel, you can have the benefit of experience working for you, allowing you to focus on your recovery.

Our law firm has handled dozens of auto accident injury claims and by doing so we have found the sooner a person seeks legal representation, the better. By doing so, you will enable a lawyer to gather supporting documents, evidence, and witness testimonies needed to formulate a robust case against the negligent driver.

If you have any questions relating to personal injuries, we are here to help you. You may contact Tapella & Eberspacher on our website, Facebook, or Google Plus page.