Anti-Lock Brake Systems for U.S. Motorcycles
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Anti-Lock Brake Systems for U.S. Motorcycles

Tuesday, November 28, 2017By Richard Alexander and Nina Shapirshteyn

Motorcycle riders remain one of the most vulnerable groups of roadway users in California. Helmets and other forms of protective gear can go a long way in improving personal safety for motorcycle riders, especially with the seemingly endless epidemic of distracted driving. Some motorcycle manufacturers have been praised for increasing safety on their bikes with anti-lock brake systems (ABS), which help to prevent wheels from locking up during hard braking. They also help to improve control during bad weather and slippery road conditions. Motorcycle safety advocates have been calling on legislation that would require anti-lock brake systems to be a standard safety feature, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Improving Motorcycle Rider Safety With ABS

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it’s estimated that nearly one-third of all fatal motorcycle crashes and many more injuries could be prevented by a federal ABS mandate. Most law enforcement agencies across the nations, including the California Highway Patrol (CHP), require all motorcycles in their fleets to have ABS. New motorcycles in Europe have ABS as a standard safety feature, and other countries such as Japan, India and Brazil are going to phase-in ABS as a safety standard on new bikes too.

NHTSA Slow to Protect Motorcycle Riders

Unfortunately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has historically been slow to respond to safety concerns associated with fatal and injury causing motorcycle crashes. Although the NHTSA has praised manufacturers who include ABS on their new bikes, they haven’t done anything to mandate this technology as an important and critical safety standard for all new bikes. According to Fairwarning.org, sales of ABS-equipped motorcycles accounted for no more than 15 percent of motorcycles registered in the U.S. in 2015.

Rider Groups in Opposition to ABS Mandate

It’s no secret that improper braking, especially in cases of bad roadway conditions or unexpected hazards, is a major contributor to injury causing and fatal motorcycle crashes. Surprisingly though, there are some riders groups who still oppose the potential ABS mandate. Many of these groups also oppose compulsory helmet laws, even though they save lives and reduce health care expenses nationwide.

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