Vehicle Dynamics are two words that you tend to often see on websites and social media platforms dealing with driver training. It is my opinion that many providers take liberty with the definition of Vehicle Dynamics. This is not a criticism, but an observation.
Vehicle Dynamics Defined
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines Vehicle Dynamics as the application of the laws of physics to a vehicle in motion. Simply put, whether one is driving through cones, around corners or trying not to hit a solid object, the vehicle/driver combination must operate within the laws of physics.
All driving scenarios, no matter how simple or complex, are an exercise in the laws of physics. It makes no difference whether it’s a training program for high-risk or low-risk environments, or what type of vehicle – sedan, armored SUV, Lenco BearCat, or bus — is being driven. Nor does it matter whether it’s a private sector corporation, government, military, or police agency that is conducting the training. Because in both the training environment and the real world, the only set of laws we must live within while operating a vehicle are the laws of physics. Fortunately for us, the same laws apply equally to our adversary as well. When instructing driver training at any level, an understanding of the fundamental laws of physics, and their effect on the driving task, enhances the student’s learning experience.
Having been at this for nearly five decades, it has become apparent to me that most people shy away from using the laws of physics as a training tool because of the math it requires. This may well be because, for most people, their only exposure to the laws of physics is what they were taught in high school, where the subject is mired in books and often seems to have no practical value. For those who are mathematically challenged, once the theory is explained in an easily understandable manner, and it applies to something they enjoy doing – like driving and driver training — and they learn how to turn a classroom discussion into a hands-on practical exercise based on a real-world scenario, it is amazing how much sense all that math makes. Not to be redundant but all driving scenarios, be it an accident or ambush, no matter how simple or complex, are exercises in the laws of physics. Hence, understanding and being able to apply the laws of physics can be based on science. This understanding of Vehicle Dynamics is also the key to measuring an individual driver’s capability behind the wheel; it’s the only way to objectively measure their driving skill.