IIHS calls for federally-mandated motorcycle ABS

Dailies -


ABS-Petition.jpgThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is petitioning the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make anti-lock brakes a
federally mandated safety feature on all new motorcycles. Justifying the
need, the IIHS cites statistics that show ABS-equipped motorcycles are
38 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash
than identical
models without the equipment. Previously, Hell For Leather commenters
expressed concern that ABS crash statistics could be skewed when popular
ABS-equipped bikes like large BMW touring bikes were compared to bikes
that typically don’t come without the feature, bikes like sports bikes.
The argument was that BMW’s tend to be ridden by experienced riders in
full safety gear, while many sportsbike rides tend to be less
experienced and therefore more likely to stick themselves into a tree. >

Here’s the IIHS’s petition in full.

The American Motorcyclist Association isn’t supporting the measure due to the increased cost – estimated to be in excess of $1,000 per bike – and the need for bikes designed to travel off-road as well as on to be equipped with brakes that can lock. They argue that ABS should become an option on more bikes, but not be made mandatory.

“Traveling on two wheels instead of four is always riskier, but our new research shows that anti-lock brake technology can make motorcycle riding a much safer way to get around,” stated Adrian Lund, the IIHS president.

via The Washington Post

Thanks for the tip, Kevin.

  • http://ciurana.eu Eugene Ciurana


    I’m of two minds about this. As a BWM rider since 1993, all my motorcycles had ABS and I can attest to their effectiveness. On the other hand, I don’t agree with ABS, helmets, or any other rules enforced by the federal or state governments. I believe in personal responsibility. If some idiot wants to kill him or herself by not wearing appropriate gear or not having ABS or whatever, that’s their business.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this evolves.


    • Spank

      While I do personally agree, what about the people affected by some idiot’s death? Not talking about the family, but about the person driving the car that some idiot plowed into the side of? As a motorcycle claims adjuster, I get the worst of the worst, including an R1 rider that did 180mph over a blind hill, into a 17 year old turning into their driveway and then into a tree. Luckily the 17 year old was physically OK, but he’s now in therapy for what he saw. Granted, ABS would’ve been no help in that situation, but even with fatalities on the decline, we need some regulation whether it be equipment, or riding school.

  • Steve516

    How about federally mandated driver and rider training programs? American drivers suck, and American riders are not much better on average. This is another thing we could learn from the europeans…

  • http://www.txsbr.com Benjamin

    Personal responsibility should win the day. Should doesn’t mean will, but I hope it does. I’m not a fan of drawing ultimate conclusions from incomplete data.

  • chili sv

    Repeat after me IIHS, “Correlation is not causation.”

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D.

    Right, this study, while interesting, ignores that fact that more responsible/mature people are likely to spring the extra ~$1k for ABS.

    As a matter of policy, I do support mandating ABS, if only because increased production will lower per-unit pricing of it! The extra $1k/bike is the current pricing figures, I’m sure. Once all manufacturers get on board, it will be much lower.

    And judging by the number of gearless, undertrained riders on the road, it certainly seems like personal responsibilty isn’t working ;)

  • baconpocket

    this is sad. the feds crushed the auto industry under regulations and now they want to beat up the motorcycle industry.

    i’d like to say they have good intentions, but why the hell don’t they just mandate stricter training and more consequences for irresponsibly crashing?

    • Greg

      Crushed the auto industry under regulations? Yes, the industry was severely impacted by mandating such ridiculous safety features such as safety belts and air bags…

      My commuter bike is equipped with ABS and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Should all bikes be equipped with ABS? Perhaps not. However, forcing an industry to adopt a safety technology could result in a better product down the road – again, just look at automobile manufacturers.

      Currently, Honda has been on the cutting edge of ABS technology with the development of a new and unique system that can be found on their CBR line of bikes. It’s reported to be significantly lighter and more responsive than standard ABS. Just think what competition could yield. ABS is the future and I’m all for it!

      • baconpocket

        sorry Greg i was being a bit general, referencing the addition of hundreds of pounds of safety equipment while requiring that the cars then get better fuel mileage and not flip over from the extra weight. then they end up making a lot of cars that consumers didn’t ask for. i just hope this isn’t the start of the same trend in bikes.

        i think ABS on bikes is awesome, i just believe it should be consumer driven.
        if they want to put that correlation graph on the sales sheet for non-ABS bikes that’s ok with me.

  • Kidchampion

    This should be much further down the list from such things as: a nationwide ban on cell phone/texting use while driving. I won’t bore you with the details of the insane cell phone impaired driving I’ve seen in just the last two weeks.

  • PeteP

    IIHS sucks @ss.

    How about ending all cell phone/computer use while driving? I’ll bet that would save a whole lot more lives than ABS.

    So, if this happens, I predict it will mean the end of small bikes, dual sport bikes, scooters, home built customs, etc., etc., etc.

    This is ridiculous.

  • http://www.ninja250blog.com Ryan

    It’s sort of inevitable that ABS become mandatory but the expense is still high enough that it could be stalled a while. But really it’s pretty intellectually dishonest to point to the 38-percent figure as evidence to support mandatory ABS. It is grossly improbable that 38 percent of fatal accidents involve locking brakes. And if you have any capacity for crtitical thinking, you would accept that there’s no way ABS would be 100% effective in that 38% of crashes, so it’d follow that, reasonably, in excess of 50% of fatal motorcycle crashes are caused by locked brakes, if you accepted the claim that ABS bikes are 38% less deadly by virtue of their ABS. Which cannot possibly be factual.

  • Woodman

    Yea, just what we need, more laws, rules, regulations, fees, fines, taxes, tariffs and commisions. And of course all the agencies, personal, supervisors and bearucrats to force them on us. There are not enough of these, we need more.

    That is why we ride bikes, to follow rules and be safe.

    If only the government would outlaw leaving the house then we could all be so safe. Please pass that law ASAP.

  • geonerd

    didn’t iihs just publish some study that basically concluded that MSF courses do nothing to improve rider safety?

  • http://cohobot.blogspot.com/ coho

    What Steve516 said.

    And aggressive enforcement of no-texting/no-phone-in-hand laws. Way more lives (and money) saved than mandatory ABS.

    PS. One of my bikes has ABS and I like it very much. That bike is getting a bit long in the tooth and its replacement will have ABS, too.

  • J

    What I think I know…

    Most motorcycle crashes are single vehicle crashes, i.e riding into a corner too hot. ABS wont’t make a bit of difference in this kind of situation. By the time someone realizes they’re going to fast they’re already well into the corner and the options are stand it up or lay it down.

    People who opt to purchase motorcycles with ABS are likely more conservative riders thus skewing the accident statistics. A squid is a squid ABS or no ABS.

    My guess is that most accidents involving brakes locking up are relatively low speed crashes and in city traffic. That’s the only time I’ve ever locked up my brakes unintentionally.

    How much is ABS going to help the douche bag riding in flip flops and cargo shorts? Half shell helmet?

    The whole idea of mandating ABS is absurd. Statistics can be skewed to reflect any desired outcome. How many of the crashes in those statistics could have been prevented if the motorcycle had been equipped with ABS?

    If anything should be mandated (and probably nothing should) make it MSF rider training. And if it’s mandated for riders it should be mandated for cagers too.

  • Alex

    “Correlation is not causation”

    Yep. Riders who opt for ABS are much more likely to be concerned about safety. This study is as about as elementary as saying, “riders who wear wedding rings 40% less likely to die. IIHS calls for all unwed riders to wear wedding rings.”

    Having said that, if there is a statistical link, I’m all for it in 95% of scenarios (most street bikes), but it’s a catch 22 because I don’t think it should be mandated for those who don’t want it. Maybe the right answer is a fee/subsidy to make non-ABS a bit more expensive and ABS a bit cheaper.

  • vic

    i will keep saying this until the bastards in charge get it..motorcycles need slipper clutches and good traction control before ABS

  • zeke

    nice another way to kill the small bikes.i ride small bikes under 200cc. one i ride honestly gets 120mpg and does 60mph no joke tested repeated times. does it have the power to carry 30 more pounds? umm no. should abs be regulation? no! if you even put it on any of my bikes and i will rip it off and sell it. remember 150 pound bike with 11 hp. now if i had a bmw / touring bike i would love abs. but i honestly don’t see the benefit of regulating every one to have it. it’s idiotic. is abs safer? yes unless if you rob me of all acceleration. o yeah motorcycle training =good i really recommend it for any rider. i would suggest more funding towards subsidizing safety courses before abs regulation. if you want safer. either that or tell every new rider to crash at 20mph with a full face t shirt and shorts. it knocks some sense into most people with only scratching them up

  • W

    If you don’t want mandatory ABS then speak up. Put pressure on your government representative. Decisions are being made in Washington based on way fewer opinions and phone calls than you think.

    In any case, the end, It will be difficult. EU direction is for ABS on 50% of bikes by 2010 and 75$% of bikes by 2015. Somewhere along the line it will be more cost effective for manufacturers to add ABS to both U.S. and EU bikes.

  • jeff

    This is the comment I added to the recent WSJ article about this issue… oriented towards non-riders but it seems apropos to replicate it here:


    I’ve ridden as far north as Alaska and as far south as Panama in the ten years since I first got my M1 license. I’ve owned bikes both with and without anti-lock brakes. Motorcycle ABS is a great technology but it really is not appropriate as a universal mandate! Motorcycles are not all the same, and there are many classes of motorcycle for which ABS does not make sense.

    The >$1k cost of an ABS system, while a small percentage of the cost of a car, represents an enormous percentage of the cost of a smaller motorcycle. Most people who buy $20k BMWs get ABS, but the folks buying a $3,500 Honda Nighthawk or Kawasaki Ninja 250 are more price-conscious.

    ABS systems add 10-20lbs to the weight of a vehicle, usually high up. They are also physically large devices. This sounds negligible on a 5,000lb car or a 600lb Harley but it’s very significant on small 260lb motorcycle.

    ABS is not only useless but actually quite dangerous offroad, so it must be disabled. Dual-sport motorcycles (street-legal dirt bikes) are growing in popularity because you need to cross normal streets to get from trail to trail. The extra weight and complexity of ABS is a severe penalty when riding in difficult terrain with a potential multiple-day hike out if your motorcycle fails.

    Motorcycles are much more purpose-built than automobiles. Sportbikes, touring bikes, dirt bikes, motards, cruisers are ridden in wildly different ways; ABS is great for most – but not all bikes. The problem with government mandates is that they tend to be blind to even unsubtle nuances like this. Not every motorcycle is a Harley, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at this recommendation.

  • Bikerdad

    There are some serious problems both with the mandate, with the statistics behind it, and with some of the objections.

    I’ll deal first with the most serious problem, and frankly, the only one that really matters.

    A government mandate of this nature is a serious infringement of our liberty, including our liberty to be stupid and hurt ourselves. Flip it around: what if somebody were pushing for a prohibition on ABS, traction control, slipper clutches, etc. Folks would be even more outraged, but at the core its exactly the same principle. It’s my life, my risk, to assume or avoid. The “other people” argument can’t actually take you very far before any infringement of our liberty can be rationalized.

    There really isn’t much point to moving past that, because, frankly, if you surrender that ground, you’ve handed over your liberty to others. Here’s an analogous situation:

    Man: “My, you are a pretty young lady. For a million dollars, would you be willing to go back to my room for a romp?”

    Woman: “Why, I think I can find some time in my schedule to visit you.”

    Man: “Excellent, I’ll pay you $100.”

    Woman, outraged: “What sort of woman do you think I am!??”

    Man: “We’ve already established what sort of woman you are, now we’re just haggling about the price.”

    The science and statistics are merely haggling about the price, liberty has already been sold down the river.

    If you want to haggle the price, there’s these things to consider:

    Yes, the demographics of riders who buy bikes with ABS vs the same models without do matter, but we are talking about same models, so the demographics aren’t as different as newbie sportbike squids vs 30 year veteran riders on Goldwings.

    Two, the consideration isn’t on whether or not the rider crashes, its whether or not a fatal crash occurs. Often, the difference is a modest as a lowside vs. a highside. (Which is where the traction control comes in, a fine addition to any bike.) Both are still crashes.

    Me, I’d wager that the net difference in crash and fatality rates if switchable ABS were magically applied to all motorcycles tomorrow, would be about 5-10% fewer crashes and 10% fewer fatalities. Add traction control (also switchable) and the percentages would bump another 5-10%.

    As for cost, well, the cost isn’t going to drop all that much. The estimates are based on pretty firm knowledge of the costs when distributed across production runs in the hundreds of thousands (cars), with the distinct considerations of motorcycles taken into account. While a motorcycle has half as many wheels to brake, packaging the system is a whole lot more challenging. At best, I’d estimate a drop to around $500-$600 per vehicle (slightly less than the cost differential on a WeeStrom), i.e. an increase in cost of anywhere from 3% to 15%.

  • Me again

    For those of you who want to mandate training

    MSG training has never resulted in a sustained reduction in injury or fatality rates. It took the economy of 2008 to manage any decline. When will we stop looking to them for answers?

  • Me again agian

    Err MSF sponsored by the motorcycle industry to promote sales

  • Jake

    Previously, Hell For Leather commenters expressed concern that ABS crash statistics could be skewed when popular ABS-equipped bikes like large BMW touring bikes were compared to bikes that typically don’t come without the feature, bikes like sports bikes

    If you look at the actual research paper, all BMW models were excluded.

    Although ABS has been an option on BMW models for much longer than the study period, BMW does not use a VIN indicator for ABS. All BMW models were excluded.

    I will read the model a bit more carefully when I get home, I’m a bit skeptical of its “findings”