The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 14, 2006

Voices: Scientific driving


I am a physicist and automobile enthusiast. Kinetic energy equals 0.5 times mass times the square of velocity. Momentum equals mass times velocity. Mass equals weight divided by acceleration due to gravity.

A heavy car with a powerful engine has more kinetic energy and more momentum when moving than a light car and is usually safer for the driver and passengers. Horse power equals torque times revolutions per minute divided by 5,252.

The driver used the left foot before 1950 to operate the dimmer switch for changing between high beam and low beam and also to operate the clutch pedal. The right foot operated the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal. Most newer model cars have only the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal.

Reaction time is approximately 0.1 second less if the driver operates the brake pedal with the left foot and accelerator pedal with the right foot. This method of driving with both feet is safest if the driver has used only this method for the past several years in driving cars with automatic transmissions. Pedal mistakes will thus be avoided and the driver will not crash through the wall of a building with the right foot pushing the accelerator all the way.

I use any of three driving methods depending upon traffic, road condition and time constraint. The methods are:

1. Lead the parade.

2. Go with the flow.

3. Maximize mileage economy.

Going with the flow is usually the safest driving method. Better economy can be obtained with constant throttle than with constant speed. Constant throttle has the disadvantage of the car going very fast at the bottom of a long hill. Best economy can be obtained safely by knowing the weight of a car, the torque curve of the engine, gear ratios of the transmission and using a modified version of constant throttle.

Arthur L. Strobel

Joplin