NHTSA Petitioned to Mandate Antilock Braking for Motorcycles

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute maintain this step would significantly reduce crashes and deaths.

NHTSA recently summarized motorcycle fatalities and injuries in 2011, when they were high but down from the recent peak years of 2008 and 2007, respectively, even though the number of motorcycles registered continued to rise to 8.4 million in 2011. The fatality and injury numbers and rates mirror vehicle miles traveled, according to last month's Traffic Safety Facts report from the agency.

There were 4,612 motorcyclists killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2011, 2 percent more than the 4,518 motorcyclists killed in 2010, while there were 81,000 motorcyclists injured during 2011, down slightly from 82,000 in 2010, NHTSA reported.

A recent petition addressed to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute ask the agency to require new motorcycles to be equipped with antilock braking systems because they maintain this step would significantly reduce crashes and deaths. Motorcycles with ABS are 31 percent less likely to be involved in fatal crashes than those same motorcycles without ABS, an IIHS analysis indicates, and a new study from HLDI found a 20 percent reduction in the rate of collision claims with ABS. HLDI analysts concluded even greater gains result from ABS in conjunction with combined braking systems, which integrate a motorcycle's front and rear brake controls. Together, they cut collision claim frequency by about one third.

"The data continue to accumulate in support of motorcycle ABS five years after we first reported on its effectiveness," said Adrian Lund, president of both IIHS and HLDI. "We hope NHTSA will agree that it's time to take action to ensure all riders get the benefit of this lifesaving technology."

With ABS, a rider can use maximum braking force in an emergency situation without fear of locking a wheel. "Operating the brakes on motorcycles is more complicated than on passenger vehicles, and locking a wheel during hard braking results in much more dangerous consequences. As such, riders may be reluctant to apply full braking force for fear of locking a wheel, resulting in an otherwise avoidable crash or a more severe one. The Hurt et al. (1981) and MAIDS (Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers, 2004) in-depth studies of motorcycle crashes had examples of loss of control due to wheel lock and of failure to adequately brake," the letter from Matthew J. Moore, HLDI vice president, and Eric R. Teoh, IIHS senior statistician, states.

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