News Motorcycle ABS, Fewer Fatal Crashes

Motorcycle ABS, Fewer Fatal Crashes

Motorcycle ABS Study

Antilock brakes for motorcycles significantly reduce crashes, removing some of the risk that comes with riding on 2 wheels. A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that motorcycles with antilocks versus without are 37 percent less likely to be in fatal crashes per 10,000 registered vehicle years.

Bolstering this finding is a separate analysis by the affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) of insurance claims filed for damage to motorcycles. Bike models with antilocks have 22 percent fewer claims for damage per insured vehicle year (a vehicle year is 1 vehicle insured for 1 year, 2 insured for 6 months, etc.) than the same models without antilocks.

Crash avoidance technology like motorcycle antilocks is especially important because more people are taking up riding and more are dying in crashes. Rider deaths topped 5,000 in 2008 — more than in any year since the federal government began collecting fatal crash data in 1975.

Motorcycle registrations rose to 7.7 million in 2008, up from 4.3 million in 2000, according to R.L. Polk and Company data. The upswing in motorcyclist deaths comes amid record lows for fatalities in car crashes, prompting the Institute and HLDI to look harder at measures to stem motorcyclist deaths.

"It’s a troubling trend," says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. "No one wants to begrudge motorcyclists the opportunity to ride for fun or to get around town on a bike. As the number of new riders continues to increase, though, it’s becoming more important than ever to lower the crash risk."

One answer might be to equip more motorcycles with antilocks. Stopping a motorcycle is trickier than stopping a car. For one thing, the front and rear wheels typically have separate brake controls. In an emergency, a rider faces a split-second choice to either brake hard, which can lock the wheels and cause an overturn, or hold back on braking and risk running into the emergency.

This is when antilocks 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. Antilocks won’t prevent every motorcycle crash. They won’t help a rider about to be struck from behind, for example.

Antilocks are gaining traction among manufacturers and riders. More than half of motorcycle owners recently surveyed by the Institute said they would get antilocks on their next bikes. Buyers can find them on at least 60 new models. For more information on the motorcycle study and other Institute research click here.


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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