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STEM Labs
Momentum Alley Student

Slowing Down the Effects of Momentum

When a vehicle is traveling at any speed, momentum is at work. When that vehicle has a collision or brakes quickly, the sudden change in momentum of the car, its passengers, and any cargo can cause injuries and damage because of the force. That is why car manufacturers have developed several safety features, such as seat belts, airbags, padded dashboards, and crumple zones to protect any riders who may be involved in an accident.

Seat belts and airbags are important devices as they are designed to slow the body down more gradually. Slowing down more gradually reduces the forces on the body during a collision. Seat belts and airbags are legally required to be installed in vehicles and there are many states that enforce seat belt laws to ensure riders are protected.

Padded dashboards are safety features that give riders a way to protect themselves in case an airbag does not deploy. Hitting the padding instead of the dashboard reduces the forces acting on the body during impact. This feature has a huge effect on the severity of head injuries from car collisions.

Crumple Zones were first developed in 1952 by Béla Barényi, who worked for Daimler-Benz. He designed a car with designated areas that could collapse and absorb the kinetic energy released in an impact. These zones are still designed and utilized by auto engineers. Vehicles are designed to collapse in a controlled way during a collision, absorbing and redirecting the force of the impact. Crumple zones are usually located in the front and back of the vehicles.