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For nearly 40 years our offices have known that higher speeds equals bigger accidents.  You are probably saying to yourself “No kidding Nick, that is just basic physics”.  

When you add in a crazy polar weather pattern, you have a deadly Texas sized pileup on the freeway. Literally.  130 vehicles where damaged or destroyed and six people lost their lives in Texas during just such an event in February 2021.  Why? Simply because too many people were traveling when they didn’t need too, and they were going too fast for the conditions.  While the cause might be that easy, the responsibility isn’t.  It will take years for experts to figure this one out.

There is a formula that engineers use to describe the amount of energy a moving vehicle has.  It is E=MV2.  E is the total energy the moving vehicle has, M is the Mass and V is the velocity or speed.  That little two means that the “V” or velocity is squared.

The Power Of Square

It really is an amazing thing to think about, that the V is squared.  This means that if you are in a 1 ton car going 10 miles per hour your energy is 1 ton times 10 miles per hour squared.  Your energy factor is 100.  But if you double the speed you don’t just double the energy.  At 20 miles per hour your energy factor or “E” is equal to 400.  Doubling the speed increases your energy by four times!

Mass has a lot to do with the equation too.  A compact car can weigh as little as 2300 lbs.  At 65 miles per hour it can do a lot of damage.  A big rig can weigh as much as 80,000 lbs.  Nearly 40 times more than a small compact car. 

The V Isn’t Only Cars And Trucks

The cool new thing is electric bikes.  Many electric bikes are limited to 20 Mph and “fast electrics” now hitting 30 Mph or more.  Many shared paths limit bikes to 5 mph in California and yet we see them whizzing by at top speed all around our homes here in the bay area and around California.

A pedestrian getting hit by a regular road bike at 10-15 mph can be a serious accident with some pretty bad injuries.  Just like cars and trucks, doubling the speed of a  bike from 10-20 miles per hour gives the electric bike 4 times the energy.   Add in the extra 40 to 70 pounds for the extra weight on the electric bike and suddenly the electric bike has the potential to do damage like a car.

A “fast electric” at 30 Mph is 9 times more powerful than a bike at 10 miles per hour.  Think about being hit with a 900 lb hammer.  That is what a fast electric bike can become.

Electric bikes can cause serious personal injury or even death.

Riding Safe

Once upon a time, California made all grade school kids learn to walk against traffic and ride with traffic.  Today we see people of all ages riding illegally on sidewalks and opposite traffic.  When you ride opposite traffic, you add your V to the other persons V and then square it.  Two electric bikes hitting head on have 16 times more energy than a regular bike by itself.  

The energy of two electric bikes can nearly equal that of a small car. Going head on with a car can increase the energy at impact to the point that survival is almost impossible.  When you ride with traffic, your V is removed from the cars V before being squared.  This little bit of math might just save your life.

Riding in the bike lanes, passing to the left, slowing down in shared paths and using a bell to alert pedestrians are all ways that you can ride safer.  Being courteous to everyone is part being civilized and of living in a healthy society.  It also helps to keep you from being negligent when it comes to an accident.

Sadly this doesn’t always happen.  If you are in an accident, call us.  Bikes, cars and trucks, we handle them all because the physics is always the same.

If you have questions, give us a call 925-258-0500