Community Motorcycle Safety ABS Brakes increase Motorcycle Safety

ABS Brakes increase Motorcycle Safety

ABS Brake Study

A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveals that motorcycles with antilock brakes versus without are 37 percent less likely to be in fatal crashes per 10,000 registered vehicle years.

"Antilock brakes for motorcycles are working as designed to reduce the chances of crashing, removing some of the risk that comes with riding on two wheels," according to an IIHS spokesman.

The finding matches a separate analysis by the affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) of insurance claims filed for damage to motorcycles. Bike models with ABS have 22% fewer claims for damage per insured vehicle year than the same models without antilock brakes.

Crash avoidance technology, such as antilock brakes, are especially important because more people are taking up riding. Motorcycle registrations rose to 7.7 million in 2008, up from 4.3 million in 2000, according to R.L. Polk and Company data.

Stopping a motorcycle is trickier than stopping a car. In an emergency, a rider faces a split-second choice to either brake hard, which can lock the wheels and cause a crash, or hold back on braking and risk running into the emergency.

ABS can help by reducing brake pressure when they detect impending lockup and then increasing the pressure again when traction is restored. Brake pressure is evaluated multiple times per second, so riders may brake fully without fear of locking up. A

ABS is gaining traction among manufacturers and riders. More than half of motorcycle owners recently surveyed by the IIHS said they would get ABS on their next bikes. Buyers can find them on at least 60 new models.

IIHS researchers compared the fatal crash experience of antilock-equipped motorcycles against their non-ABC counterparts during 2003-08. HLDI did the same for insurance losses for the same group of motorcycles.

HLDI also looked at injury claims. Under medical payment coverage, motorcycles with antilock brakes registered 30% lower claim frequencies than bikes without this feature. Claim frequencies were 33% lower under bodily injury liability coverage.

"Motorcycle antilocks do make a difference," Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research says. "They help make traveling on two wheels less risky by reducing the chance of overturning a bike and crashing.

Passenger vehicles still are safer, but if you’re going to ride we’d recommend getting a motorcycle with antilocks."


Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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