A parent with their young driver

How to Accelerate a Car Safely

Almost nothing gives a sense of your car’s power quite like slamming down your accelerator and feeling yourself be pushed back into your seat. However, almost nothing will burn up fuel, tax your engine and stress your tyre and suspension systems as much as hard acceleration.

Hard acceleration also increases accident risk, which is why it is one of the main factors car insurance companies use to measure your driving skill when you have a telematics unit installed in your vehicle. Not only does a pattern of harsh acceleration put you at more risk of an accident, but it is also associated with other bad driving behaviours that put you at increased risk of an accident.

Learning to accelerate skilfully does not, however, mean that you need to crawl to your cruising speed once you have pulled from a stop. It instead involves understanding how to strike a balance between brisk acceleration and putting your car under the least possible strain in the process.

Understanding acceleration

As is the case with braking and cornering, acceleration places additional stress on your car’s tyres and suspension. These forces are typically strongest when there is a combination of high engine revs, the car is moving from a stationary position and the car’s clutch is released.

Once your car is in motion the forces on your tyres then decrease slightly as you maintain acceleration, before spiking again as you release the accelerator and your engine slows the car down.

If the acceleration forces at any point of this critical period are too strong, your car’s tyres will reach their friction limit and you will experience wheel spin. Once your wheels spin you can lose control of your vehicle’s steering.

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How to accelerate smoothly

The key to skilled acceleration is not to accelerate slowly, but rather to avoid causing spikes in the forces that are applied to your car’s tyres.

To accelerate smoothly and safely:

* gently apply pressure to the accelerator and never jab or floor it

* maintain consistent pressure on the accelerator as you push it down

* release the accelerator gradually, and avoid suddenly lifting your foot off it.

If you use UbiCar you will receive accurate feedback on how skilfully you accelerate on every trip you take. You’ll score high on acceleration provided you avoid accelerating your car above 3 m/s2 for a duration of 600 milliseconds or more. The more often your break this threshold on a trip, the lower your acceleration score will be.

Acceleration and corners

The risks associated with sudden acceleration are amplified on corners, where additional forces caused by cornering are also pushing your car’s tyres towards loss of traction with the road.

When cornering:

brake to the desired speed before entering the corner

* only use your accelerator to maintain that speed while you are in the corner

* accelerate gently and smoothly as you exist the corner.

Any attempt to increase your car’s speed while in the corner will significantly increase the risk of your car’s tyres reaching their friction limit in the bend, and losing control of your vehicle.

Acceleration at cruising speed

Acceleration also occurs when your car has already reached its cruising speed, typically when you wish to overtake another vehicle or avoid some kind of road hazard.

In these situations the basic principles remain the same:

* avoid sudden acceleration which can cause wheel spin

* accelerate steadily without any jerky movements

* smoothly release the accelerator once you have reached the desired speed.

Download UbiCar

UbiCar measures, scores and reports acceleration as well as several other important driving behaviours and rewards you for better driving. Earn UbiCoins for online purchases and fairer priced insurance for safe driving.