In reading the auto accident reports in the TH, it is apparent that a great many accidents are rear-end collisions. It is a common experience to be “tailgated” when driving at the speed limit on Dubuque streets. While many people travel 5 mph over the limit (for example 35 mph), they do not realize that in one second you travel approximately 50 feet.

Most drivers do not realize that human “reaction time” — that is the time between recognizing visually that you are in a “stop” situation, and the time for you to actually apply the brakes is also one second. This means that if you are following closer than 50 feet from the car ahead of you, you cannot avoid a rear-end collision.


If you don’t believe this is true, read the accident reports. Accepting reliable science (biology for reaction time) and physics (for the dynamics of collisions) could save drivers lots of destructive situations.

The author is an emeritus professor of physics at Loras College.