The Physics of Driving and Maintaining a Clean Driving Record

The gang at Driving Safety Course Texas once saw a bumper sticker that said “Gravity – It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.” As much as you may have tried to avoid taking physics in high school, there is no avoiding the laws of physics as they affect you behind the wheel. You may have forgotten the definitions of terms like “center of gravity” or “centripetal acceleration” as soon as that physical exam was over, but you live with the reality of those terms every time you get behind the wheel and everything is tracked in your TX department of motor vehicles driving record.

Maintaining a Clean Driving Record 1

The main thing to remember when you are on the road is that you can only control is the things that you can control. Road conditions like the coefficient of friction, the level of illumination, the degree of road grade or curvature are not among these controllable things. Neither is the weight or center of gravity of your vehicle. So, as you approach a curve, what can you control? Your speed is the only thing you can control.

To maneuver safely through a curve, speed management is the key. When heading into a curve, keep the following things in mind:

  • Most of the time, there are safe speeds posted for upcoming curves. These aren’t just suggestions or aggravations. Watch for (and obey) them.
  • There may exist conditions where slowing to the speed posted on the curve may still be insufficient. If the road is wet or gravel filled, the curve is blind or you are driving a heavy vehicle or one with a high center of gravity, slow down even more.
  • Once committed to the curve, avoid braking. Due to centripetal acceleration, braking forces the weight of your vehicle to the outside of the curve. This can set up a dangerous situation by straining your tires, sometimes to the point of blowout. If the speed you are traveling is sufficient, a blowout may even lead to vehicle rollover.
  • Maintain a steady speed until you have completed the curve and have returned to a straight stretch of roadway. Then it is safe to return to the original posted speed.

And, of course, curves aren’t the only places to slow down. As much fun as it may be to roll freely down a steep grade, in the words of John Mayer, gravity is working against you. You could find yourself rolling to another opportunity to visit at!