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published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
This 22-minute video goes behind the scenes at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to give students an up-close look at the physics of car crashes. Using a series of vehicle maneuvers on test tracks plus high-resolution film of vehicle crash tests, the video explores the relationship between crash forces and inertia, momentum/impulse, and more. The narrator, Griff Jones, is a high school physics teacher who makes the topics come to life in a manner easily comprehensible to teenagers. See Related Materials for a comprehensive teacher's guide with lessons and assessments developed especially to accompany the video. The full unit will extend 5-8 days, but may be easily shortened or segmented for shorter duration.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Editor's Note: This resource meets multiple NGSS standards. It's one of the few turn-key packages we've found that support the teaching of momentum in a manner appropriate for high school learners. The video is engaging and a solid introduction for the four classroom activities.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Linear Momentum
= Collisions in One Dimension
= Conservation of Linear Momentum
= Impulse
- Newton's First Law
= Inertia in Motion
- Newton's Second Law
= Force, Acceleration
= Interacting Objects
- Newton's Third Law
= Action/Reaction
- Statics of Rigid Bodies
= Stresses
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Shock Waves
- High School
- Middle School
- Instructional Material
= Curriculum support
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Problem/Problem Set
- Assessment Material
= Answer Key
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Laboratory
- Assessment
- New teachers
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Safety Warnings
Minimal Danger   No Safety Equipment Necessary  

Intended Users:
Access Rights:
Limited free access
For educational, non-commercial use only; redistribution and derivatives not allowed without express permission of publisher.
© 2010 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Additional information is available.
crash tests
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created April 22, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
April 22, 2014 by Caroline Hall

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1C. The Scientific Enterprise
  • 6-8: 1C/M9. Scientists are linked to other scientists worldwide both personally and through international scientific organizations.
  • 9-12: 1C/H3a. Progress in science and invention depends heavily on what else is happening in society.
  • 9-12: 1C/H6ab. Scientists can bring information, insights, and analytical skills to bear on matters of public concern. Acting in their areas of expertise, scientists can help people understand the likely causes of events and estimate their possible effects.

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 6-8: 3A/M3. Engineers, architects, and others who engage in design and technology use scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. They also usually have to take human values and limitations into account.
  • 9-12: 3A/H4. Engineers use knowledge of science and technology, together with strategies of design, to solve practical problems. Scientific knowledge provides a means of estimating what the behavior of things will be even before they are made. Moreover, science often suggests new kinds of behavior that had not even been imagined before, and so leads to new technologies.

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 9-12: 4F/H1. The change in motion (direction or speed) of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to the mass.
  • 9-12: 4F/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.

Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (MS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Apply Newton's Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects. (MS-PS2-1)
  • Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. (MS-PS2-2)

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Use mathematical representations to support the claim that the total momentum of a system of objects is conserved when there is no net force on the system. (HS-PS2-2)
  • Apply scientific and engineering ideas to design, evaluate, and refine a device that minimizes the force on a macroscopic object during a collision. (HS-PS2-3)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
  • Momentum is defined for a particular frame of reference; it is the mass times the velocity of the object. (9-12)
  • If a system interacts with objects outside itself, the total momentum of the system can change; however, any such change is balanced by changes in the momentum of objects outside the system. (9-12)
Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B)
  • When the motion energy of an object changes, there is inevitably some other change in energy at the same time. (6-8)
Relationship Between Energy and Forces (PS3.C)
  • When two objects interact, each one exerts a force on the other that can cause energy to be transferred to or from the object. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Cause and Effect (K-12)
  • Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect. (9-12)
Energy and Matter (2-12)
  • Energy cannot be created or destroyed—it only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems. (9-12)
Stability and Change (2-12)
  • Systems can be designed for greater or lesser stability. (9-12)
Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World (K-12)
  • Engineers continuously modify these technological systems by applying scientific knowledge and engineering design practices to increase benefits while decreasing costs and risks. (9-12)
Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology (K-12)
  • Science and engineering complement each other in the cycle known as research and development (R&D). Many R&D projects may involve scientists, engineers, and others with wide ranges of expertise. (9-12)

Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (9-12)
    • Apply scientific ideas to solve a design problem, taking into account possible unanticipated effects. (9-12)
Engaging in Argument from Evidence (2-12)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about natural and designed worlds. Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science. (9-12)
    • Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations). (9-12)
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information (K-12)
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to evaluating the validity and reliability of the claims, methods, and designs. (9-12)
    • Communicate technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (including orally, graphically, textually, and mathematically). (9-12)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to include investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models. (9-12)
    • Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly. (9-12)
Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence (K-12)
  • Science knowledge is based on empirical evidence. (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical representations of phenomena to support claims. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical and/or computational representations of phenomena or design solutions to support explanations. (9-12)

This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.

Topic: Impulse and Momentum
Unit Title: Collisions

Fascinating 22-minute video supplemented with a comprehensive Teachers Guide lets students take a deep look at the fundamental physics of momentum and impulse. The Guide contains two labs that meet multiple NGSS Practices, plus a problem-based learning activity (PBL). Created for high school introductory physics, but can be easily adapted for Physics First or Grades 7-8.

Link to Unit:

Topic: Impulse and Momentum
Unit Title: Collisions

Nobody will snooze through this 22-minute video, narrated by high school physics teacher Griff Jones. It explores the fundamentals of momentum/impulse through vehicle crashes on test tracks at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Don't miss the accompanying Teacher's Guide with lessons & assessments for doing a complete unit on collisions.

Link to Unit:
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, 2010), WWW Document, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUpiV2I_IRI).
Understanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, 2010), <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUpiV2I_IRI>.
APA Format
Understanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics. (2010). Retrieved July 23, 2014, from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUpiV2I_IRI
Chicago Format
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Understanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics. Arlington: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUpiV2I_IRI (accessed 23 July 2014).
MLA Format
Understanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics. Arlington: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2010. 23 July 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUpiV2I_IRI>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Understanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics}, Publisher = {Insurance Institute for Highway Safety}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {23 July 2014}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T Understanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics
%D 2010
%I Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
%C Arlington
%U https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUpiV2I_IRI
%O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D 2010
%T Understanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics
%I Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
%V 2014
%N 23 July 2014
%9 application/flash
%U https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUpiV2I_IRI

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Jul 7 - Sep 30, 2014