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Could anti-lock brakes help prevent motorcycle crashes?

A recent vote by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) may be the first step in having key safety features like anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control systems make their way onto motorcycles. The NTSB voted unanimously on Tuesday, September 11, as part of a public hearing on the topic.

The NTSB’s vote was only the first step in a long process of actually having these increased safety options present on America’s motorcycles. It doesn’t mean that new motorcycles will automatically have them, or even that we’ll see them in the next few years. This is because of the proverbial red tape and jumble of interwoven administrative bodies governing the sales of motor vehicles across the country. Only the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – not the NTSB – actually has the power to pass regulations requiring the presence of anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control systems. 

The NTSB presented data provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), another government agency, showing that nearly 5,300 motorcyclists die in crashes annually, but that making anti-lock brakes standard could lower that rate by a startling 31 percent. Electronic stability control systems will also surely lower accident rates, but definitive figures about how far aren’t currently available.

Currently, less than 9 percent of motorcycles on America’s roads have anti-lock brakes standard, and it’s only optional as an accessory on a further 13.3 percent of bikes. That low percentage likely contributes to the motorcycle’s status as one of the deadliest vehicles on roadways today. Motorcycles account for less than 1 percent of all vehicle miles traveled annually, but motorcyclists make up more than 14 percent of all crash fatalities in the nation.