This week the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a statement supporting the long-due amendment of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. The amendment would require motorcycle manufacturers to install antilock braking systems (ABS) in all motorcycles. The changes, proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in September, will create minimum performance standards that have been tested successfully in other parts of the world. It will also keep motorcycles with unsafe brakes from being sold in the United States.
According to IIHS statistics, both the rate of fatal motorcycle accidents and the frequency for which insurance collision claims are filed are lower among motorcycles with ABS compared with the same motorcycles without ABS. The IIHS study shows 6.7 fatal crashes per 10,000 registered vehicle years among motorcycles not equipped with ABS during the year 2005-2006. For motorcycles equipped with ABS that number was much lower at 4.1.
The issue of equipping motorcycle with better quality brakes is gaining significance because more and more people are resorting to motorcycles as a means of transportation. Motorcycle sales have more than tripled between 1997 and 2005. Correspondingly, motorcycle accident fatalities have more than doubled since 1997. Experts say that although adding ABS will not make motorcycles as safe as cars, it is a step manufacturers should take to reduce the risk for those traveling on a two-wheeled vehicle. ABS is believed to reduce the risk of a bike overturning and crashing. In short, it is a life-saver.
In my opinion, this issue is not much different from the proposed federal rollover roof crush standard. That rule, which is also long overdue and seems to have been put yet again on the back burner by the NHTSA, will save tens of thousands of lives by forcing automakers to manufacture vehicles with stronger roofs. The NHTSA should move a lot faster when making such rulings, especially when so many lives hang in the balance.