Last week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) filed a second petition with federal regulators requesting they mandate antilock braking systems (ABS) on all new motorcycles.
It’s been 10 years since the two first called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require ABS on motorcycles. In that time, the 27 member states of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and India have all mandated the life-saving technology.
Over the same period, manufacturers have voluntarily increased the proportion of new U.S. bikes that have ABS as standard equipment from 20 percent in 2013 to 59 percent this year. Despite this, 30-40 percent of new U.S. motorcycles still lack ABS, according to IIHS-HDLI.
“Ideally, the U.S. should take a leadership position when it comes to safety regulations,” IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey said. “But at the very least, NHTSA should act swiftly to adopt the best practices when the rest of the world moves faster.”
Evidence supporting ABS has heightened since the first IIHS-HLDI petition.
The most recent IIHS study of motorcycle ABS, with broader analysis than the initial 2013 study, found that fatal crash rates for bikes with optional ABS are 22 percent lower than identical models without the technology.
The latest HLDI research shows the rate of collision insurance claims for motorcycles with ABS are 21-24 percent lower than for unequipped models. HLDI controlled for the riders’ automobile claim rates, “disproving the notion that ABS only appears to have benefits because the safest riders are more likely to buy it.”
Various European studies have linked motorcycle ABS to large reductions in injury crashes and fatal crashes in 2015 and 2016.
There have been concerns that ABS can worsen handling issues on gravel and other loose surfaces, but this can be addressed with a required off switch, so riders could disable ABS when riding on certain surfaces. IIHS-HDLI also suggested an indicator light could be required to remind riders to turn ABS on when riding on a paved roadway.
A record number of motorcycle crash fatalities were reported 6,084 deaths in 2021, the latest year of data currently available, highlighting the need to accelerate adoption of the mandate, IIHS-HDLI said.