Motorcycle accidents in Hawaii and around the country claimed more than 6,000 lives in 2021, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures. Studies conducted in Europe and the United States show that motorcycles equipped with anti-lock braking systems are involved in far fewer deadly accidents. Still, NHTSA has failed to introduce a regulation that would mandate the technology. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute petitioned NHTSA to make ABS systems mandatory motorcycle safety equipment in 2013. In November 2023, the two road safety advocacy groups sent a second petition to federal regulators.
The IIHS and HLDI sent their second petition to NHTSA because much has changed since 2013. Motorcycle ABS systems are now mandated in the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, Taiwan and India, and about 60% of the motorcycles sold in the United States feature the technology even though federal regulations do not require it. There have also been several studies conducted in recent years that suggest fatal motorcycle accidents could be reduced by up to 22%, and motorcycle insurance claims could be reduced by up to 24% if every machine was equipped with ABS.
One of the few arguments against requiring motorcycle ABS systems is the way the technology can impair handling on loose surfaces like gravel. Supporters of motorcycle ABS regulation point out that this problem could be overcome by adding a handlebar switch that allows riders to turn off electronic braking assistance. ABS became mandatory safety technology on all passenger vehicles sold in the United States in 2012.
Preventing accidents and saving lives
Research shows that motorcycle ABS systems can prevent accidents and save lives, but about 40% of the machines sold in the United States lack the technology. That will change if a petition submitted by two of the nation’s most prominent road safety advocacy groups prompts federal regulators to take action. ABS systems have been required on passenger cars, pickup trucks and SUVs for over a decade, saving countless lives.