We often are reminded flying is safer than driving, and I think, mile for mile, that is correct. I would like to share some information that is very likely not known by the average driver and could be valuable to promote safety.
Do you know how many feet per second you are moving at the various speeds indicated on your speedometer? This, I believe, is a good place to start. Remember mathematics do not lie. Mathematics is considered to be a hard science, always the same. It was not a science developed by man; it was discovered. In other words, two plus two is always four, no matter where you are.
When you are driving at 30 miles per hour, a common speed for many of our streets, did you know you were moving at 44 feet per second? It's easy enough to figure such a number.
We all know there are 5,280 feet per mile. So, 30 times 5,280 comes to 158,000 feet. Divide that number by 60 to find your distance per minute, which comes to 2,640 feet. Now, divide that number by 60 to find the number of feet per second, which is 44 feet. Now, consider what could happen at 30 miles per hour on one of our streets if you were tailgating or driving too close to the car ahead of you if that car had to make a sudden stop?
How long would it take you to move your foot from the accelerator to the brake? Suppose that took a second. You would have traveled 44 feet. But the car would not stop until after you had hit the brakes. How much further would it move until it stopped?
A number of years ago, the Kansas Highway Patrol assisted at the end of drivers' training courses in schools. The student was seated in the driver's seat, the patrolman in the other front seat. The car was equipped with a small attachment on the front of the car that was controlled by the patrolman. It simply was fired from the patrolman's seat by shooting a small spot of yellow paint onto the pavement. The patrolman would ask the student driver to drive at 20 miles per hour. When the student heard the shot, he was to stop as quickly as possible. At that point, the patrolman would fire a second shot of yellow paint. Then the student measured the distance he had traveled between the first and second shots.
They always were amazed at how much distance they had covered at only 20 miles per hour. By the way, at 20 miles per hour, you cover 29.3 feet per second.
Kansas raised the speed limit on the interstate recently to 75 miles per hour. Using the formula above, you will find you are moving at 110 feet per second when driving at that speed. The last recommendation I know, from visiting with a state patrolman, for the distance to be used when following a car ahead of you was two cars. Cars vary in their length. My car is 179 inches long (I will use 180 to make an even 15 feet for length). Suppose the car ahead of me has to stop suddenly and I have allowed a two-car distance. I'm driving at 75 miles per hour (110 feet per second) and allowing a two-car distance between me and the car ahead (30 feet), you know the problem.
And, by the way, when you are driving at 75 mph, you are going to get passed. At 80 mph, the distance per second is 117 feet.
I'm sure you all have had this experience. You come to a corner that has a white line to show you where to stop to allow other drivers to turn the corner without hitting you. The car coming from the right, turning left in front of you, often does not wait until he gets to the real corner, but begins his turn early. You will experience someone getting very close to your front end as he turns. In other words, he is aiming his car instead of driving it.
Sure, there are a number of other situations that can affect the safety of driving. Reading the handbook we receive before taking our driver's test for a driver's license will help, if practiced. We are going to continue to drive our cars, whatever the consequences.
I hope this article has helped to see a couple of the problems in a different light.
Arris Johnson is a member of the Generations advisory committee.