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Physics - Speed and Road Safety
Student information

This lesson links to the topic of road safety and the effect of speed, part of the Fisica

Starter working with a partner, discuss how safe the roads are where you live:

Can you think of any areas in your town where traffic accidents often happen? What actions could
people take to reduce accidents in these places?
What is the speed limit outside your school? Do you think it should be changed? Give reasons for
your opinion.

Now read the text about how speed can influence safety on the roads:

When a car is travelling at high speed, drivers have less time to identify hazards and react to
what is happening around them: this is known as thinking distance. Driving faster also
means that vehicles need more space to stop (braking distance) and if there is a crash,
injuries will be more severe.
Speed limits are therefore established to help drivers understand the dangers of each
particular road. If a driver ignores the speed limit there is an increased probability of
accidents. This is all very logical, but driving too fast (speeding) causes thousands of serious
accidents and injuries every year.
Excessive speed contributes to 28% of collisions in which someone is killed, 18% of crashes
resulting in a serious injury, and 12% of all collisions where someone is injured. However, it
is important to remember that the most important factor is the speed limit for each specific
road. Not all accidents involve cars travelling at 100km/hour. Approximately two thirds of
all crashes in which people are killed or injured happen on roads with a speed limit of 50
km/h or less.
In some countries the authorities have begun to use simulators to show drivers the effects of
not observing speed limits. The simulator allows you to experience and compare the
potential effects of driving at different speeds along a residential street, and shows you how
your choice of speed relates to a possible injury. Although the simulator feels realistic, the
driver always has time to react. However, in the real world, a pedestrian may appear
suddenly just in front of you and if you are driving too fast, you may react too late.
Adapted from: http://www.stoppingdistances.org.uk/facts/speed.htm

Photocopiable Pearson Educacin, S.A., 2011 1


Check your understanding

1. Say if the statements are true, false or not mentioned in the text. Give evidence from the

1. When travelling more slowly a driver has more time to see any dangers.
2. Speeding is responsible for more than half of all crashes where someone is killed.
3. A third of all crashes happen on roads where the speed limit is greater than 50km/h.


1. Imagine you work for a road safety organisation that is campaigning to improve road safety.
Work with a partner to produce 10 rules of the road to help drivers to keep within the speed
limit. Use information from the text and your knowledge of physics.

Photocopiable Pearson Educacin, S.A., 2011 2