In this activity, students build model cars to investigate the function of safety features such as seatbelts and crumple zones.

In addition to learning road safety fundamentals, students are introduced to Physical World concepts – Newton’s laws of motion, kinetic energy and the Nature of Science Investigating in Science strand’s use of simple models.

By the end of this activity, younger students should be able to:

  • demonstrate how seatbelts prevent the wearer from continuing to move forward during a car crash
  • explain why it’s important to wear a seatbelt when in a car
  • discuss the use of models in science – how their car represents aspects of reality.

In addition, older students should be able to:

  • explain that seatbelts exert a force, preventing the wearer from moving forward
  • demonstrate how crumple zones absorb energy
  • make simple connections between forces and Newton’s laws
  • make simple connections between car crashes and kinetic energy transformation
  • demonstrate how kinetic energy is reliant on the mass of an object and the velocity at which it moves.

Download the Word file (see link below) for:

  • background information for teachers
  • equipment list
  • student instructions
  • extension ideas/prompting questions for teachers.

Useful links

This activity was written to support NZAPSE Primary Science Week 2017. Visit their website for road safety and science links.

NZTA has an NZC level 4–5 physics resource that develops conceptual understanding of force and motion through the context of technologies used for road safety and safe stopping.

See how far vehicle safety has come in this NZ Transport Agency video. It shows a 1998 Corolla crashing into a 2015 Corolla.


    Published 3 May 2017, Updated 13 September 2017