Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Tire Behavior
Name: Wes
Status: student
Age: 14
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001

I've been told that when the tires of an automobile hit something, let's say a small animal, the animal would be thrown forward, in the direction that the car is heading. However, with the gripping treads on the tires, shouldn't the thing be pulled under the tire, and crushed by the immense weight of the vehicle? Thanks in advance.

It depends upon which part of the tire hits first. Overall, the tire is moving forward, so in general a collision with something will impart a forward momentum to whatever gets hit. However, the bottom of a tire really isn't moving at all. The "gripping treads" of a tire won't pull anything under a tire, because they're not moving backward. Instead, the lower forward quarter of a tire is mostly moving downward; it will push down on anything under it as the car moves forward. That's why small items are crushed instead of thrown clear.


Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory