Story Problem

by J.D. Roth

You own a box factory situated in the middle of the country.

Your delivery driver is returning from a trip. As every driver has done several times a day for twenty-one years, he idles up to the edge of the parking lot, angles across the entire road, and begins to back in.

Meanwhile, a woman in a Ford Focus comes flying around the corner (which is 500 feet down the road) and accelerates toward the the truck. The woman shows no signs of stopping. At the very last possible moment, she slams on her brakes. The tires smoke and squeal as the Ford Focus comes to rest three or four feet from the rear of the truck. After the truck has backed into the drive, the woman in the Ford Focus speeds away.

You happen to witness the whole incident because you were watching for the truck’s return. You go out to measure the skidmarks. They’re 45 feet, five inches long. (That’s 13.84 meters to those so inclined.)

Question one. How fast was the Ford Focus traveling at the time the driver slammed on her brakes? (I own a Ford Focus, too. My owners manual indicates the car’s mass is 3640lbs, or 1651kg.)

Question two. If an accident had occurred, who would be at fault? (This is in Oregon.) The truck driver followed all legally prescribed procedures except honking his horn — not that the woman could have heard it.

Question three. Why do people insist on driving so darn fast?

Updated: 27 December 2006

Do what's right. Do your best. Accept the outcome.
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