Study by IIHS Shows Motorcycle ABS Saves Lives

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Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announcement

ARLINGTON, Va. — Nearly a decade after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) first called for a federal mandate requiring street-legal motorcycles to be equipped with antilock braking systems (ABS), the data continue to pile up in favor of this lifesaving technology as shown in a recent study conducted by the organization.

Examining fatal crash rates for 65 motorcycle models offering ABS as an option during the period 2013-19, the researchers found that bikes equipped with the feature were involved in 22 percent fewer fatal crashes per 10,000 registered vehicle years. A registered vehicle year is equal to one motorcycle registered for one year.

“We have known that ABS saves lives and have been saying it should be mandatory for 10 years now,” says IIHS Director of Statistical Services Eric Teoh, the author of the study. “This study is our most expansive one yet on the topic and confirms the importance of this feature.”

Related post:
IIHS: Front Crash Prevention Works for Large Trucks

In earlier studies, Teoh had found a somewhat larger effect on fatal crash rates for ABS than he found in the new analysis. One likely explanation is that the 2011 and 2013 studies involved fewer types of motorcycles.

The new study has many more sport, unclad sport, and supersport bikes, for example, and their riders did not benefit as much from the technology as other motorcyclists. That may be because they are more likely to be ridden aggressively and at higher speeds.

Because the study was limited to motorcycles on which ABS was available as an option, the results might also have been skewed by the exclusion of the growing number of models on which the feature is already standard.

“The bottom line is that 22 percent is a very big effect,” says Teoh. “When it comes to decisions riders can make to protect themselves, choosing ABS is right up there with wearing a helmet.”

First developed for airplanes, ABS senses when hard braking threatens to send the vehicle into a skid. It then releases and applies the brakes in a series of rapid pulses that bring the vehicle to a stop in as short a distance as possible while keeping the driver in control. The federal government has required ABS on large trucks since 1997, and it effectively became standard on passenger vehicles with the 2012 mandate requiring electronic stability control, which uses the ABS hardware.

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For motorcyclists, the technology can be of added benefit, because it prevents the sliding and fishtailing that can cause the rider to lose control and “lay the bike down.” Though riders can learn to handle these challenges, the adrenaline surge of an impending crash can make those lessons hard to apply. Riders may also purposely avoid braking hard and wind up not being able to avoid a collision because they’re afraid of skidding out.

To view the entire announcement, click HERE.

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