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posted: 8/15/2011 4:00 AM

Teach the physics of controlling a car

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As one who grew up in the Chicago area and learned to drive there, I enjoyed reading and agree with: "Standard teen driving laws a good idea," July 10. I took a driving course at my high school (Maine East) during my junior year, and I can only thank my instructor for instilling in me a deep sense of caution, fear and responsibility when I learned to drive -- so much so that I didn't apply for my license until two years later when I entered a university, keeping my learners permit instead.

As a physicist, it is obvious to me that younger drivers (as well as some older drivers) don't understand the physics of driving that many learn the hard way: via experience. In my physics courses, I often discuss the physics associated with vehicles (friction, stopping/reaction times, momentum/kinetic energy, inelastic collisions/seat belt usage, driving efficiency/techniques) and I find that my students are highly appreciative of and resonant with my efforts to connect physics with the real-world experience of driving.

I think that if we offered more lessons in practical physics in our driving schools, this might help students better understand why we must drive defensively and responsibly.

Michael Pravica

Associate professor of physics

University of Nevada

Las Vegas