As thousands of motorcycles hit the road again in the warm months to come, alarming data about fatal motorcycle accidents underscores a serious safety concern.
More than 5,000 people were killed on motorcycles 2015, according to preliminary data provided by the Governors Highway Safety Association’s (GHSA) state highway safety offices. The data, published in Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State: 2015 Preliminary Data, represent an estimated 10 percent increase compared with 2014 – which equates to more than 450 additional deaths above the previous year’s total. If the predictions are correct, this will be the third year in U.S. history and the first time since 2008 in which the fatality number topped 5,000.
Researchers and manufacturers have known for decades that their customers are substantially exposed to collisions with other motor vehicles. In 1989, the Hurt Report (an extensive national motorcycle accident investigation safety report) found that 49 percent of all motorcycle-to-vehicle collisions happened because evasive action could not be taken. One of the classic examples of this problem involves an oncoming automobile that turns left in front of the motorcycle; the rider locks up the wheel(s), slides out and falls on the roadway, and slides into the automobile.
It is irrefutable that over-braking can lead to wheel lock-up and loss of control. Braking insufficiently can cause a preventable collision, or it can cause the motorcycle to simply impact an unavoidable object at a higher speed with greater injuries than should have occurred.
To best address this issue, advanced braking technologies allow the rider to use the brakes aggressively without the fear of wheel lock-up and a summary spill. Armed with this information, some motorcycle manufacturers began installing complimentary safety systems called “Combined Brake System” (CBS) and “Antilock Brake System” (ABS). Here is how Honda has described these systems:
“From [its] very beginning, Honda has been actively tackling with the issue of safety. Safety of motorcycles can be largely classified into two stages, active safety and passive safety. The brake in particular can be said to be very important in active safety. The aim of developing the brake is to secure a high effect with good controllability. It is necessary to achieve the goal to heighten three areas; controllability, convenience and the sense of confidence for the average rider. With respect to controllability, at first the improvement of conventional brake systems can be cited, which will include the development of a disk brake system for motorcycles for the first time in the world and the development of sintered friction materials. In regards to convenience, the second area, we have begun the development of a combined brake system (CBS) ahead of others and are now tackling the task of an easier way of distributing braking force between the front and rear wheels. This is related to the improvement of controllability mentioned in the beginning. As for the enhancement of the sense of confidence, the third, we aimed at preventing wheel lock and came up with the anti-lock brake system (ABS). Furthermore, in docking CBS and ABS, we developed a combined ABS which enhanced the respective effects.”
What is CBS and ABS? When you’re driving in your car and apply your brakes, the brakes on all four wheels get applied simultaneously. That’s important, because the car would otherwise react non-uniformly to braking. Motorcycle brakes were developed differently. There is a front hand brake and a rear foot brake.
The inherent risk of having two independent brakes is obvious: one wheel will react differently from the other. For example, if the rider jams on the front brake without the same precise force as the rear brake, an abrupt application of the front brake will cause that wheel to lock-up and it can and often does cause the rear end to go up in the air and the bike will tumble. If, on the other hand, the rider jams on the rear brake alone and that wheel locks up, the bike will slide out and the motorcycle will ordinarily tilt over and fall to the roadway.
CBS is a mechanical system that causes both brakes to get applied almost simultaneously when just one of the two brakes is applied. That system alone significantly reduces the dangers associated with applying just one brake. ABS is an electronic/mechanical system that is activated on hard braking to prevent wheel-lock up and skidding.
Faced with the reality that virtually all BMW motorcycle models included ABS brake systems (starting in 1988) by 1995, over the past 5 years, more and more new motorcycles have been offered (as an option) or marketed with standard ABS brake systems. By the end of this decade, every new motorcycle sold in the US will probably have this safety device. It’s essential.
If you have been in a motorcycle accident and were seriously injured because your wheels locked up, you may have been able to avoid the crash if your vehicle had ABS brakes. Contact Anapol Weiss for assistance. Our highly qualified motorcycle accident lawyers can investigate the situation and determine whether your braking system played a part.