Letter: On RFTA and physics
November 21, 2013
On RFTA and physics
We learned (Aspen Times, Nov. 16) that the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will "look into" installing seat belts in its buses and that seat belts on local school buses are available but optional.
As a retired physicist, I find this shocking. The officials in charge should have learned at their mother's knees, or at the latest in middle school, what Newton published more than 300 years ago: A body (for which read your own tender body or that of your beloved son or daughter) in motion will continue in motion until acted upon by an external force. When a bus is acted upon by an external force, as in a collision, it stops; but the bodies inside continue to move forward at their original speed (say, 50 mph) until they strike some part of the rigid interior of the bus, which delivers the force necessary to stop the body and likely delivers severe trauma. The restraint of a seat belt delivers the necessary force to bring the body to a stop, but does so much less severely.
There's nothing magic about riding in a bus; buses have wrecks and the passengers need the protection of seat belts.
Chair, Aspen Science Center
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