3.4 – Centrifugal Force

Centrifugal force is the apparent outward force that draws a rotating body away from the center of rotation. It is caused by the inertia of the body as the body’s path is continually redirected. In Newtonian mechanics, the term centrifugal force is used to refer to one of two distinct concepts:

  • An inertial force
  • A reaction force corresponding to a centripetal force

Centrifugal force effect on turns

  • In a turn, your car is subject to centrifugal force, which is pulling your car away from the direction you want to turn and into a straight line.
  • Traction is necessary to keep from losing control in a turn.

centrifugalWhen turning into a corner, a bicycle or motorcycle leans toward the inside. The cyclists must react to the centrifugal force, which would pull them outward. The operator of a motor vehicle does not encounter the great significance of this force to the extent that the operator of a two-wheeled vehicle does. Naturally we feel the force and tend to lean without realizing we are.

Means of affecting centripetal force
The operator of a motor vehicle must reduce their speed when entering into a curve. Otherwise, they cannot enter at the right speed or position to follow the centripetal force. This could cause them to lose control of the vehicle.

Slow down to enter all curves in a road
Centripetal force can cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle when entering a sharp curve. If the road is banked, enter the curve without banking it too high, so that you don’t lose control of the vehicle. A good driving practice is to look ahead so that you enter the curve properly and hold the position throughout the entire curve.

click-to-downloadVehicle Handling, Ford Motor Co.



Avoid braking on a curve. Braking causes tire friction and along with centripetal forces, the vehicle could pull out of control. If you must brake on a curve, do so gently so that you do not lose control of the vehicle.

Factors determining force of impact

Kinetic energy is a combination of the vehicle and occupant weight and the speed the vehicle was being driven at the time of impact. Therefore, during a collision, the greater the speed and load of the vehicle, the greater the impact and its consequences.

Vehicle characteristics: body rigidity and “crush zones.”

  • Modern automobiles are being designed with “crush zones” that help reduce the force of impact on the occupants.
  • The more the body resists the impact of an accident, the more damage it will sustain. When a driver and passengers become aware of a potential collision, they tend to tense their bodies. This “rigidity” causes injuries in itself.

its_trueIt is noted that drunk drivers and drivers that have fallen asleep at the wheel usually survive a serious accident with little to no injury, while the driver of the vehicle they hit is seriously or even fatally injured. These drivers tend not to tense up and don’t resist the forces of nature; therefore their more limp bodies tend to have fewer injuries.

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