October 4, 2021
By Kali Kotoski
Examining fatal crash rates for 65 motorcycle models offering antilock braking systems as an option from 2013 to 2019, researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that bikes equipped with ABS were involved in 22 percent fewer fatal crashes.
“This study is our most expansive one yet on the topic [of ABS] and confirms the importance of this feature,” said IIHS Director of Statistical Services Eric Teoh, the author of the study. In earlier studies, the IIHS found that motorcycles with an ABS option had a greater effect on reducing the number of fatal crashes. Researchers contend that is because previous studies did not include a robust sampling of different motorcycle types.
The new study released in August included many more sport, unclad sport and supersport bikes, for example, and it found that riders of those types of motorcycles didn’t benefit as much from ABS. That may be because those bikes are more likely to be ridden aggressively and at higher speeds. The researchers defined sport, unclad sport and supersport bikes as those capable of high speeds, capable of high speeds without plastic fairings and consumer versions of racing motorcycles, respectively.
By motorcycle type, ABS was associated with a 32 percent reduction in crash rates for standard and cruiser motorcycles, with a roughly 25 percent reduction for touring and sport touring bikes. For sport bikes, that percentage fell to 19 percent, and for supersports it fell to 12 percent.
While the IIHS has called for a federal mandate requiring street-legal motorcycles to be fully equipped with ABS, the American Motorcyclist Association’s stance is that it should be more available but remain optional, especially for riders who take their ABS-equipped motorcycles on low-traction gravel dirt roads and trails, as the option to disable the ABS system is often critical to retaining directional control of the motorcycle.
ABS is standard on more than half of 2020 model motorcycles on the road in the U.S. and optional on another quarter, the study said.