Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!’” – Hunter S. Thompson

Motorcycles have been around since the second half of the 19th century. For over 100 years, riders in the U.S. have developed a strong sense of identity through their love of riding a motorcycle, which represents freedom and functions as an escape from everyday life. The above quote by the American journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson vividly describes the passion with which motorcyclists carry their lives. Although motorcycle riding promotes a sense of independence and , it is broadly considered a risky activity for riders at all levels of experience.

Almost 5,000 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2015, up 8.3% from the year before. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that in 2014, a person on a motorcycle was 27 times more likely to die in a crash per vehicle mile than someone in a passenger car. In addition, motorcyclists were five times more likely to face severe injuries.

In Oregon, 44 cyclists died in 2014, and 874 sustained injuries. Four fatalities and 158 injuries were sustained in Portland. While there are clear risks associated with riding a motorcycle, manufacturers continue to make advancements in motorcycle safety through a variety of what are dubbed “rider aids” in the cycling world.

Electronic Rider Aids for Motorcycles

Much of the technology that has helped passenger vehicles become safer methods of transportation has been passed down to motorcycles in the form of electronic rider aids. Among hardcore motorcyclists, electronic rider aids are a controversial subject. These rider aids are basically new and improved technologies that help to “correct” a bike when an accident is about to take place. In some cases these devices can mean the difference between life and death; some long-time riders feel that these technologies are unnecessary and take away from the experience. There is also a growing concern that these aids will replace proper riding technique among new riders.

Anti-lock Braking Systems

The most notable electronic rider aid that improves the safety of motorcycles is the anti-lock braking system (ABS). These brakes work by monitoring the speed of each tire relative to the other’s. Traditional bikes have separate front and rear brakes; most motorcycle tires also vary from front to back. The shift of weight is a major component of a motorcycle’s performance while stopping.

Today, more and more bikes are being equipped with ABS. The system continuously compares the front and rear rotation speeds of the front and back tires. When one wheel moves too slowly in comparison to the other, the brakes will lock up. These reactions are only felt during emergency situations and not during normal braking.

When driving a car, locked up brakes may result in a scary moment of skidding. When you’re on a motorcycle, the danger amplifies. Getting your brakes locked up can result in a serious injury crash. These brakes also help motorcyclists brake faster in a shorter length of road. Stopping distances are greatly improved on wet and dry surfaces.

Incorporating anti-lock brakes drastically reduces the instance of crashes — particularly fatal ones — when compared to rates of crashes among non-ABS bikes. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the rate of fatal crashes is 31% lower for motorcycles equipped with ABS than those without.

Stability Control

The majority of motorcycle crashes that do not involve another vehicle (66%) occur while turning. When a bike is leaned over, part of the available traction is used for cornering grip, leaving less traction for braking. To be specific, just 85% of normal brake pressure is available when a motorcycle rests at a 33 degree angle when traction conditions are perfect. If there is snow or rain on the ground, you have even less.

A few big-name bike manufacturers have developed advanced traction control to keep riders safe when unexpected low-traction situations reveal themselves. New motorcycle stability control (MSC) systems that work in conjunction with ABS take into account situations in which a bike is not positioned straight up, but rather caught up in a turn. These two systems feed the bike’s onboard computer system data about acceleration, deceleration, wheel speeds, and more hundreds of times per second to determine the amount of traction available at all times. When paired with linked braking, the optimal amount of brake pressure is applied to both wheels when the user applies full pressure to either brake in a panic situation.

These systems are designed with the rider’s safety in mind should an emergency situation arise.

Despite these advancements, cyclists will always be at a greater risk for injury on the road simply due to the fact that they are not encased in a safe metal cage. If you or someone you know has suffered from a motorcycle accident in Portland, RizkLaw will review your personal injury case for free. Call (503) 245-5677.