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2010 Motorcycle Safety Studies

New Motorcycle Safety Reports Available

 Motorcycles With ABS Are Safer
Helmets Save Lives
 Motorcycle Training Does Not Reduce Crash Rate

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April 6, 2010 – The Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the U.S.A., has released a series of reports on motorcycle safety (see below).

The studies include a report on accident results for motorcycles equipped with anti-lock brakes vs. motorcycles with non-ABS brakes; a report that compares motorcycle accident insurance claims in states with vs. without mandatory helmet laws; and the accident rates of motorcyclists who have taken rider training courses vs. those who haven’t.

Motorcycle registrations increased from 4.3 million in 2000 to 7.7 million in 2008, according to R.L. Polk & Company data. There were more than 5,000 motorcycle rider deaths in 2008, which is more than in any year since the federal government began collecting fatal crash data in 1975.

The increase in motorcyclist deaths is at odds with record low fatality rates in car crashes, which was the motivator for the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) to look at measures to stem motorcyclist deaths.

Eight out of 10 motorcycle crashes result in injury or death, compared with two out of 10 car crashes, according to the study. The HLDI says this statistic “makes sense, because motorcycle riders don’t ride in a cocoon with crush space, seat belts and airbags to protect them”.

IIHS and HLDI Motorcycle Safety Reports

“Effectiveness of Antilock Braking Systems in Reducing Motorcycle Fatal Crash Rates” (Download .pdf)
This study indicates that motorcycles with antilock brakes are 37 percent less likely to be involved in fatal crashes. Part of the reason for the decreased fatal crash rate for ABS-equipped motorcycles may be that older, more mature or more experienced riders ride motorcycles equipped with anti-lock braking systems.

“Antilock brakes for motorcycles are working as designed to reduce the chances of crashing, removing some of the risk that comes with riding on two wheels”, according to the study.

The study indicates that motorcycles with ABS versus motorcycles without ABSare 37 percent less likely to be in fatal crashes per 10,000 registered vehicle years.

HLDI researchers compared the fatal crash experience of ABS-equipped motorcycles against their non-ABS counterparts during 2003-08. HLDI did the same for insurance losses for the same group of motorcycles and they also looked at injury claims.

Under medical payment coverage, motorcycles with ABS registered 30 percent lower claim frequencies than bikes without this feature. Claim frequencies were 33 percent lower under bodily injury liability coverage.

A separate analysis by the HLDI of insurance claims filed for damage to motorcycles found that motorcycles with ABS have 22 percent fewer claims for damage per insured vehicle year (a vehicle year is one vehicle insured for one year, 2 insured for 6 months, etc.) than the same models without ABS.

HLDI says that “One answer might be to equip more motorcycles with (ABS)”.

Anti-lock brakes are becoming popular with both manufacturers and riders. More than half of motorcycle owners recently surveyed by the Institute said they would get ABS on their next bike, and ABS is currently available on 60 new models (list of 2010 motorcycles equipped with ABS).

ABS Required on Motorcycles in the U.S.A.?

In other ABS news, the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA) released a draft Vehicle Safety Rulemaking and Research Priority Plan for 2009-2011 which indicated that NHTSA was planning to require anti-lock braking systems for motorcycles in 2010.

The final plan indicated that NHTSA plans to issue its next decision relating to braking in 2010. They referred to the IIHS study referenced above.

At this point, NHTSA believes an additional year of data and additional analyses are needed to determine statistical significance of results (FMVSS #122). The Motorcycle Industry Council and NHTSA are meeting on an ongoing basis with NHTSA Rulemaking staff to discuss issues surrounding advanced braking systems.

More Information:  Report – “Insurance Special Report: Motorcycle Antilock Braking System (ABS)” (Download .pdf)

 “Helmet Use Laws and Medical Payment Injury Risk for Motorcyclists with Collision Claims” (Download .pdf)
An additional new report by HLDI underscores the real-world benefits of helmet laws that apply to all riders.

The analysis of insurance claims data examines the effectiveness of universal helmet laws covering all riders, and another looks at the impact of state-mandated training for young riders.

Key findings include:

  • Motorcyclists in states that require all riders to wear helmets are less likely to file insurance claims for medical treatment after collisions, compared with riders in states without helmet laws or where the laws apply to some but not all riders.

  • Helmets reduce head injuries, and head injuries are the leading cause of death among riders who are not wearing a helmet during an accident.

Motorcyclist Survey

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety surveyed 1,818 motorcycle riders by telephone in 2009 to get a picture of nationwide trends in motorcycling.

More than half of riders the Institute surveyed said they believe ABS on motorcycles enhance braking safety, compared with conventional brakes. Fifty-four percent said they would get ABS on their next bike.

43 percent of the respondents said they had been in at least one motorcycle crash. Often motorcycle crashes are blamed on other vehicles, not riders, so it is noteworthy that almost two-thirds of the reported crashes involved a single vehicle, and it was the motorcycle.

Seventy-three percent of riders surveyed said they always wear a helmet, and 9 percent said they often wear one. Five percent said they never do.

Riders of sport, supersport, and sport touring bikes were most likely to say they always wear a helmet. Riders 18-29 and those 50 and older were more likely to say they always wear a helmet while riding, compared with motorcyclists in their 30s and 40s.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents who don’t always wear helmets said they would wear them if required by state law. About half of motorcyclists surveyed said they don’t favor universal helmet laws, mainly because they want to choose for themselves. Still, 76 percent said helmets make riders safer.

More Information:  “Role of Motorcycle Type in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes” (Download .pdf)

“Motorcycle Collision Coverage Claims in States with Required Motorcycle Rider Training” (Download .pdf)
This report by IIHS found a very interesting statistic: the frequency of insurance collision claims for riders younger than 21 is 10 percent higher in states that require riders this age to take a training course before they become eligible for a license to drive a motorcycle, compared with states that don’t require training.

Although this difference isn’t statistically significant, it contradicts the notion that training courses reduce crashes.

A potential explanation is that riders in some states, riders are fully licensed once they finish training. This might shorten the permit period so that riders end up with full licenses earlier than if training weren’t mandated.

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