Car Crash WebQuest



A traffic accident occurred in a 35 km/hr speed limit zone on Millway Street in which a 3000-kg Cadillac Escalade SUV rear-ended a 2000-kg Subaru Outback Wagon that was stopped at a stop sign. The entire police investigative division has gone on vacation to Bora Bora to relax, so the mayor has contracted with you and your team of experts to determine what happened and what traffic laws were broken.


Your team will provide the mayor with a detailed accident report (including all equations and work) that includes mass, velocity, and momentum of both vehicles both prior to and after the collision. Further, the mayor has requested you create a visual demonstration / re-creation of what happened to assist with the insurance company’s investigation. This may take the form of a PowerPoint presentation, a 3’x4’ poster, a web site, or an annotated digital video.

The mayor has provided you with the following diagram drawn by police officers at the site of the accident:



  1. Each group member will choose one of the following roles. The group’s success will depend upon how well each individual accomplishes their responsibilities.

    a. Auto Expert: This individual will research the physics of linear motion and determine, based upon accident site analysis, how fast the SUV and wagon were moving immediately following the collision.

    b. Collision Expert: This individual will research the physics of basic collisions and determine, based upon data provided by the auto expert, how fast the SUV was initially moving.

    c. Investigator: This individual will research elastic and inelastic collisions, then analyze the accident scene as well as reports from the auto expert and collision expert in order to determine what type of collision occurred.

  2. Fulfill your individual roles. Before you can put together a comprehensive picture of what happened, each individual member of the group must visit several websites and research their portion of the accident in order to understand what is required and what steps you must take in order to accomplish your mission. Click on the appropriate link above to guide you through your role-specific tasks.
  3. Design your written accident report. This should include a one-paragraph introduction, a written step-by-step summary of what you believe occurred (including any appropriate diagrams), any assumptions you made during the analysis, and a listing of what traffic laws were broken, and by whom. Include a final paragraph describing why you would or would not be interested in a career in accident investigation.
  4. Design your final presentation, which visually and verbally explains to a non-technical audience in a professional manner what your group believes occurred at each step of the accident.
  5. As a team, fill out a self evaluation for this project. Not only will you be assessing your final result, but also your group with respect to each team member’s work ethic and dedication. You will be evaluated based on the same criteria by your instructor.


Work will be evaluated based on the attached rubric.  Each group will self-assess based on criteria.  Self-assessments will be combined with the instructor's assessment for a total of 40 possible points.


Once the project is completed, students should have a solid understanding of momentum, conservation of momentum, and inelastic and elastic collisions. Further, students will have connected previous kinematics work with the newer topics of collisions and energy. Finally, students will have been introduced to careers in accident investigation.

Teacher Notes