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How far is too far? In a recent press release, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety made a plea to the federal government to require anti-lock braking systems on all motorcycles sold in the U.S. The group cites a newly-released study showing 22 percent fewer damage claims are made on motorcycles with ABS compared to non-equipped models, in part, as justification for the law.

Although we cannot agree more with Institute president Adrian Lund when he says, "the best motorcycle accident is the one that never happens," we also can't help but notice the possibility of selfish motives on the part of the insurance industry. If you're a lifelong gearhead, you might agree that a good "insurance agent" can be a great asset, however, would you want them effectively telling you what you can and cannot do on your motorcycle?

Are we saying that motorcycle ABS is a bad thing? No way. In fact, with each new ABS-equipped bike we ride, braking performance seems to improve dramatically. However, one of life's greatest pleasures can come at the precise moment tap your brake to initiate a sliding entrance into that sharp left-hander, just before powering out with a pasted-on grin. Dangerous? Of course, but that's why we buy good insurance, right? Check out the IIHS's complete press release after the jump, and let us know what you think of the proposal.

[Source: Washington Post]
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Institute calls on government to mandate antilock brakes for all new motorcycles

ARLINGTON, VA - Recent research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety strongly demonstrates the benefits of antilock brakes for motorcycles. Based on findings that antilocks significantly reduce motorcycle crashes, including fatal ones by more than a third, the Institute is seeking a federal requirement that manufacturers equip all new motorcycles with this technology.

"The best motorcycle crash is one that never happens," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "Traveling on 2 wheels instead of 4 is always riskier, but our new research shows that antilock brake technology can make motorcycle riding a much safer way to get around."

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 split-second choices about which wheels to brake and how hard. If the brakes are applied too hard, the wheels can lock and cause an overturn. If the brakes are applied too gently, the rider risks colliding with the obstacle. 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. But the new studies released in March indicate that antilocks reduce crashes overall and save lives.

Institute researchers compared the fatal crash experience of antilock-equipped motorcycles against their nonantilock counterparts during 2003-08. The main finding is 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 Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute. HLDI analyzed insurance claims filed for crash damage to motorcycles. Bike models with antilocks have 22 percent fewer claims for crash 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. The results update earlier studies by the Institute and HLDI published in 2008.

In 2009 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it was looking at the issue in light of the Institute's earlier study but stated that "an additional year of data and additional analyses are needed to determine the statistical significance of the results."

Now the 2 recent studies from the Institute and HLDI provide more "compelling evidence that antilocks reduce fatal crash risk and lower insurance losses," says Lund. "NHTSA has what it needs to move forward with a regulation."

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. Although preliminary reports indicate that deaths declined in 2009, the upward trend in recent years comes amid record lows for passenger vehicle occupant deaths, prompting the Institute and HLDI to look harder at measures to stem motorcyclist deaths.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Correlation does not equal causation.
      • 5 Years Ago
      A safety course is a great idea --as is heavier penalties. Nothing can prevent the small number of riders that don't honor traffic laws and act like idiots. How can you make car drivers more aware of motorcycles? Headlights,proper lane postion for their mirrors,and very visable clothing. Motorcyclists will always be vunerable because we lose in bike verus car/semi. Wear the best helmet and riding gear you can-----stay safe!

      • 5 Years Ago
      superx1919: You are throwing out a fair number of claims without backing anything up.

      From personal experience at a trauma center on SoCal the majority of the riders injured were speeding and have a BAC in excess of the legal limit. It is VERY rare to have an accident victim who has not been drinking; it really is an event when the BAC comes back within normal limits.

      Personal experiences means crap to most people so lets look at the NHTSA stats:

      * "In 2008, 2,554 (47%) of all motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided with another type of motor vehicle in transport." So a majority do not collide with another vehicle. So not comment on fault

      *"In 2008, 35 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding" Not looking good for the rider again

      *There were more fatalities in the 40+ age group compared to 500cc displacement.

      *"One out of four motorcycle riders (25%) involved in fatal crashes in 2008 were riding their vehicles with invalid licenses at the time of the collision"

      *"Motorcycle riders involved in fatal traffic crashes were 1.4 times more likely than passenger vehicle drivers to have a previous license suspension or revocation"

      *"In fatal crashes in 2008 a higher percentage of motorcycle riders had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher than any other type of motor vehicle driver."

      *"In 2008, 30 percent of all fatally injured motorcycle riders had BAC levels of
      .08 g/dL or higher. An additional 7 percent had lower alcohol levels (BAC .01 to .07 g/dL)."

      So with all of that said I think I would be very careful insinuating that the majority of motorcycle accidents are caused both the "other" driver. From personal experience I don't agree with that, and the stats really don't either.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Meant to say fatal accidents are higher in those ages 40 and higher and those using motorcycles >500cc in displacement.

        We should be thankful they aren't capping engine size.

        If motorcycle owners are going to be reckless, like the above stats show, there is no reason the government shouldn't step in especially when the public pays for the irresponsibility in the form of health care.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That was from a study published over 25 years ago. Most of it is probably still relevant, but the statistics have likely changed in that time period.

        One that hasn't seemed to change "Motorcycle riders in these accidents showed significant collision avoidance problems. Most riders would overbrake and skid the rear wheel, and underbrake the front wheel greatly reducing collision avoidance deceleration. The ability to countersteer and swerve was essentially absent."

        A major argument for ABS right there.

        That study also found alcohol involved in >50% of collisions.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Using your own figures that 3/4 of accidents involved another vehicle and 2/3 of those were the car driver's fault, that leaves a full 50% of accidents which were caused by the guy on the bike.

        Car drivers do bonehead things but painting bike wrecks as just a car problem or even a majority car problem is not borne out by statistics.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The US has not done another major causality report, but the MAIDS report from Europe (2000) pretty much echoes the same theme. The majority of the collisions are due to a cager 'not seeing' the rider. And of those, about half were due to the rider not being able to stop - either correctly, or not at all due to the short distance.

        ABS can help many riders in many situations, but it need not be mandated. since the FAULT lies mostly with the bad-driving cager. The MAIDS study even pointed out that those with M-class license additions were less likely to miss the riders.

        So once again, training trumps safety features on bikes, since the car drivers are the most-often cause. On the riders side, all the unlicensed idiots need to be punished b4 they wreck, as well as the drunks. Those 3 things will greatly reduce collisions without adding hundreds of pounds so a bike can have ABS, ESC, airbags and tire pressure monitors - all so the bad car drivers can continue to be bad car drivers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If anyone doesn't understand the proper use of brakes on a motorcycle make sure to read the MSF handbook on proper braking technique on a motorcycle. The appears to be a fair amount of misinformation on the subject.

      Pages 23 and 37 have specific information.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I can hardly wait for my government mandated air bag suit.

      I have an idea. How about a government mandate that keeps cars from turning left? How about a government mandate of a 50 hp limit on all automotive engines? How about a government mandate of only specially trained drivers to take you and yours around town, you know, like the school bus you rode as a child. How about a government mandate that all unnecessary travel, as defined by the government, be restricted to keep you safe?

      I've yet to see a government in history that hasn't oppressed it's people in the name of being safe from something. I ride prudently, drive skillfully, shoot well, drink moderately, and live right. Frankly I'd rather splatter my insides all over Interstate 5 that give the government one more effing safety mandate.

      Life can be dangerous, and nobody gets out of here alive.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe one day these idiot agencies will focus on improving the skills of the motorists instead of these stupid mandated 'safety' elements.Training (and retraining) the bad drivers (and riders as well) on the road will reduce collisions and therefore insurance payouts.

      If people want to pay for ABS, they can pay for it individually.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Within a very short time (I would guess not more than 3 or 4 years), market demands are going to have ABS on every bike in which it makes sense to do so anyway, without imposing any regulation requiring it. Most likely these systems will have an "off" switch, where it is appropriate (e.g. larger dual sport bikes).

      No regulation required ... and by leaving the market alone to do its thing, ABS can be kept off the bikes in which it doesn't make sense to have it. Who's going to pay for ABS on a 125cc scooter?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Do you really think the gov't would miss an opportunity to make more laws? This is, after all, the same entity that created an entirely new agency just to cover 'Homeland Security' when the existing agencies - already tasked with that - failed at their job. The same gov't that wants a whole new department to monitor financial dealings (when the existing one should be doing that)?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Make it optional.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd say go ahead and mandate ABS on motorcycles, but at the same time, mandate lower insurance premiums.
      • 5 Years Ago
      For every "sliding entrance into that sharp left-hander" there's a lowside into the car that turned left in front of you. I have a bike with ABS now and I'm a believer.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This will only be a good thing. For those that don't want to deal with ABS on their bikes, it's an easy matter of pulling the fuse or grounding the wire to the control unit. For everyone else, it means cheaper insurance and fewer casualties.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Don't ins rates already factor this in? And if this is the case then why ask for this?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @PJ ... i am not sure where or how you are calculating those numbers but the fatality rate is actually about .069% not 6.9% per registered vehicle, big difference. Also, the 4000 number you quote is from 2004, but there were 5 million+ registered motorcycles. Do the math.

        Personally, on a sport bike, all I see is that abs doing is adding weight. I have tracked my bike quite a bit, and i have never had the front end lock up under even the heaviest braking. If you are going to argue that it is easy to lock up the rear brake, then you clearly dont understand the dynamics of braking on a sport bike and i dont want to argue with you anyway.
        • 5 Years Ago
        About 4,000 people die on motorcycles in America every year. That's almost 7% of registered riders.

        I think reducing these numbers is a little more important than any philosophical objections to safety gear.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not much bad can come from a law like this. Yes ABS might cost a little more, but when every manufacturer has to do it the prices inevitably will come down.

        I ride and have been waiting for ABS to make it to more sport bikes, other than the CBR. 99% of riders out there are not skilled enough to the point where ABS would actually negatively impact their riding experience.

        Safety mechanisms on cars (abs, airbags, etc) decrease premiums, why would the same not be true with motorcycles in time?
        • 5 Years Ago
        You all sound like whiners to me. "I don't want ABS because it decreases my CHOICES!" No it doesn't, nimrod. It enhances them. You buy a bike with ABS and you don't want it, just disable it as above. When every bike has ABS it won't cost any more. The most expensive thing about ABS is the metal weather proof casing the tiny electronics come in, it probably costs $5 total to make an ABS control unit.

        Give me a break, your arguments make zero sense at all. I'd love to have a YZF with ABS standard. It would make my daily drive that much easier. I could even add a toggle to the handlebars to defeat the ABS on a moment's whim. Having it does absolutely nothing to make the bike worse, it only makes it better and gives us more options.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Your insurance premiums will actually be lower for a bike like this. It works the same way for a car.

        You're right, you can disable the ABS unit and the motorcycle will act the same. Same thing with cars. I've owned plenty of cars that came with ABS, but the ABS is out.. so they just act like they don't have ABS.

        Nothing to fear here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Their statistics show a correlation but not causation. You would have to reduce the pool to riders that chose models were available with and without ABS, then sort by gender, income level, experience, etc. to find a meaningful statistic. Obviously, most bikes with ABS are purchased by people who are already more safety conscious. If these same people bought bikes without ABS, they would still be safer.

        It would be more effective, if more difficult to enforce, that riders wore proper gear with CE-approved armor, but that will never happen.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Plenty of bikes come with ABS as an option now, insurance companies do not offer lower rates for choosing it. They are only interested is reducing costs on their end, not yours.

      • 4 Years Ago
      If you look at the IIHS report for their actual study, and you're familiar with research methods, you can see that the study is not all it's now being cracked up to be. It was a decently done study. But, it has serious "limitations" (to use research lingo) that mean the results shouldn't be used to advocate such a dramatic change in laws.

      Here are some examples of the problems:

      All BMW motorcycles were excluded from the study because the researchers couldn’t tell by VINs whether a bike had ABS or not. Now, BMW sells a lot of bikes, so excluding them could significantly change the study results.

      Any motorcycle make/model that was involved in no fatal crashes for either ABS or non-ABS bikes was excluded. Again, excluding many types of bikes is likely to affect the results, especially when you exclude non-ABS bikes that were not involved in fatalities.

      According to the study, “Drivers of non-ABS motorcycles were slightly more likely than drivers of ABS motorcycles to have been cited for speeding or to have been impaired by alcohol at the time of their fatal crashes.”

      The study could not take into account whether people who buy ABS-equipped bikes are simply safer riders. According to the study, “motorcyclists who choose ABS may be more concerned about safety than those who decline, thus leading to lower fatal crash rates due to safer riding practices.”

      There were numerous other factors, such as miles ridden per year and how aggressive people ride, that were not factored in. As the report states, “Without more extensive data, it was not possible to estimate the magnitude or direction of any bias of the estimated rate-ratio comparing crash rates for ABS and non-ABS motorcycles.”

      Finally, the study did not look at accidents, such as being rear-ended where ABS would not have helped. According to the authors, “The small sample of ABS motorcycles and the lack of detailed information on pre-crash events in FARS precluded examination of the effects of ABS on crashes that would or would not likely have been influenced by its presence.”

      Now, some people are making the argument that ABS couldn't hurt. That's peobably true. But, ABS is expensive. Requiring ABS would be regressive in that it would hurt low-income people more than anyone else. Sure, adding a $1000 ABS system to a $20,000 Gold Wing might not be a big deal. But what about the guy who wants to a buy a $6000 motorcycle?

      I ride a motorcycle every day; it's not just a hobby for me, although I love motorcycles. And might raise the cost enough to make me give up bikes and buy a cheap car. And that cheap car would likely not have ABS since the system isn't required in cars.

      We could follow this same reasoning and say: Why not require ABS and side-curtain airnags in every car?
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