Safety Issues Concerning Motorcycles

Posted on 06/01/2015

The attorneys at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC would like to inform you on one of the most recent safety issues concerning motorcycles, which are unsafe brake systems. Defects in the braking system which increase stopping time and distance or the ability to control the bike in a braking maneuver have been at the forefront of motorcycle litigation over the past decade. One of the issues with motorcycle brakes involves the manufacturer’s decision to equip motorcycles with anti-lock braking systems (ABS). While manufacturers of other vehicles, such as tractor trailer trucks, install anti-lock brakes on their vehicles, motorcycle manufacturers have lagged behind.

BMW first equipped its motorcycles with ABS in 1988. By the year 2000, most of the European manufacturers equipped their production models with ABS. By 2005, the Japanese manufacturers were offering them as options. Finally, in 2008, Harley-Davidson began to make its bikes with ABS.

In 2008, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) documented the effectiveness of anti-lock brakes in preventing the number of crashes and the fatality rate associated with motorcycle crashes. The IIHS report in discussing the usefulness of ABS stated:

Stopping a motorcycle is trickier than stopping a car. For one thing, front and rear wheels typically have separate brake controls. Both under braking and over braking the front and rear wheels contribute to crashes. In an emergency, a rider faces a split-second choice to brake hard, which can lock the wheels and cause a motorcycle to overturn, or to hold back on the brakes and risk running headlong into the emergency.

This is when antilock breaks can help. They reduce brake pressure when they detect impending lockup and increase the pressure again when traction is restored. Brake pressure is evaluated multiple times per second, so riders may fully brake without fear of locking the wheels.

In summary, the IIHS concluded that ABS-equipped motorcycles were involved in 38% fewer fatal crashes than motorcycles without this feature.

Motorcycle manufacturers have known for years that the most common motorcycle accident is the case of an automobile driver turning left in front of the motorcycle. In such an emergency, the motorcycle rider needs a braking system to help control his motorcycle and avoid a potentially fatal accident.

A motorcycle equipped with ABS would provide the rider with such a system. Unfortunately, there are thousands of motorcycles made in the last decade without ABS. The manufacturer’s decision not to equip its motorcycles with this feature has cost and will cost several lives in the future.