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Dangerous Driving


aweld98

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After much anticipation and a not very white Christmas, it is finally snowing outside.  Well, it is more like a blizzard, but either way I am stoked because if actually feels like winter.  Anyways, this morning I had rehearsal for the school show and was eager to jump in the car and drive to school; my parents, however,  were not as keen on my operating the car on this cold and snowy day.  Don't get me wrong, I am not a bad driver, but the weather conditions, especially the ice, made my parents reluctant on allowing me to brave the storm alone.  After some persuasion, I was handed the keys to the car and was on my way.  However, on the ride to school, I started to think about the physics behind why driving in the winter is so dangerous.  Here's what I came up with.  Despite the obvious concerns, such as limited visibility, a primary concern of drivers (and of mine while en route to school this morning) is the danger of sliding or skidding of the road.  Why is it that the number of skidding cars increases exponentially during the winter season?  It all has to do with the difference in the coefficient of friction of ice.  The wheel of a car will spin thanks to the torque and work done by the car's engine.  However, the reason that the car moves is because the friction of the road acts in the opposite direction of the wheels motion, hence opposing sliding and allowing the car wheels to turn and the car wheel to rotate.  However, when the road is covered with ice ( which has a significantly lower coefficient of friction),  sometimes the force of friction is not great enough.  The lack of a strong frictional force will cause the wheel and therefore the car to slide.  Hence, driving in the winter does have its hazards!  

car wheel slipping.gif

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