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Although fighter jet pilots and astronauts experience higher g-forces than anyone on four wheels, the measurement remains useful when comparing various performance aspects of cars. Vehicles with world-class handling, such as a Formula 1 racecar, produce higher lateral g-force when cornering, and a top fuel dragster’s powerful nitromethane-fueled engine produces substantial g-force as it accelerates through a 1,000-foot dragstrip.

However, even cars available to the general public produce varying amounts of g-force while cornering, braking, and accelerating, which we can use for objective comparisons. So, what is g-force, how is it calculated, and what are the highest levels you can experience in a motor vehicle?

What is g-force?

The Formula 1 Dictionary says, “g-force is a measurement of an object’s acceleration,” or gravitation force equivalent. The “g” in g-force represents the nominal gravitational acceleration of Earth’s gravity at sea level, roughly 9.8 meters (32 feet) per second squared or about 22 mph. In some cases, the human body can withstand instantaneous g-forces in the 100s, but those levels more often prove fatal.

What are some high g-force situations while driving?

Formula 1, or F1, drivers commonly undergo elevated g-force when accelerating, braking, and cornering at high speeds during races. GrixMe reports those g-force values at 2.0 Gs under acceleration, 5.0 Gs while braking, and 6.0 Gs while cornering. For reference, World of Speed translates that 6.0 g cornering force as the driver feeling the pressure of six times their body weight, over 1,000 for a 175-pound driver. Finally, How Stuff Works says that under 5.0 Gs, a human’s head weighs between 60 and 70 pounds.

While racecar drivers expect those levels of g-forces, crashes raise the levels considerably. For instance, a collision at speed quickly escalates g-force levels up to 60 Gs or higher upon impact. In 1977, F1 racer David Purley survived crashing into a wall that stopped his car from 108 mph over a span of 26 inches, resulting in an estimated 179.8 Gs. 

Why are g-forces relevant outside of automobile racing?

Safe Drive Systems uses g-force monitoring to improve fleet driver safety and reduce recurring vehicle maintenance costs. Additionally, in everyday driving, Geotab suggests g-forces as low as 0.47 g to 0.61 g constitute harsh driving, resulting in driver feedback. For comparison, Popular Science reports a 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray will pull 1.3 Gs while cornering on the racetrack at Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Nevada. 

What are some other ways to experience high Gs?

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One extreme way to experience up to 12 Gs is by booking an experience with Sky Combat Ace. However, since most people without special training can only withstand between 2.0 and 5.0 Gs (5.0 Gs can stop blood flow in your arteries), the general public usually receives rides with maneuvers producing under 4.0 Gs. 

Roller coasters are another way to experience elevated g-forces. Fandom lists the Flip Flap Railway at Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY, in first place with up to 12 Gs. Other roller coasters in the United States that produce 5.0 Gs or more include:

  • Shock Wave at Six Flags Over Texas with 5.9 Gs
  • Kinda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, with 5.0 Gs
  • Skyrush at Hershey Park in Hershey, PA, with 5.0 Gs
  • SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa in Tampa Bay, FL, with 5.0 Gs
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Walt Disney World Florida, with 5.0 Gs
  • X Coaster at Magic Springs & Crystal Falls in Hot Springs, AR, with 5.0 Gs

So remember, the next time you’re in a car that brakes or accelerates suddenly or on an airplane that levels off after gaining altitude, leaving you feeling weightless, you are experiencing g-forces. Usually, those forces only measure slightly on either side of 1.0 Gs unless you’re on an extreme ride.