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A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that found antilock brakes significantly reduce motorcycle crashes has prompted the organization to ask that the federal government require motorcycle manufacturers to make the technology standard equipment on all new motorcycles.

Motorcycles with antilock brakes are 37 percent less likely to be in fatal crashes that motorcycles with non-antilock brakes, according to the IIHS study.

There are more than 7 million motorcycles registered in the United States. 2008 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 5,290 motorcyclists were killed and 96,000 motorcyclists injured in accidents during 2008.

"The best motorcycle crash is one that never happens," said IIHS president Adrian Lund in a press release. "Traveling on 2 wheels instead of 4 is always riskier, but our new research shows that antilock brake technology can make motorcycle riding a much safer way to get around."

On a motorcycle, the rider must decide to apply the either the front brake, rear brake or both, sometimes having to make that decision in a split second to avoid an accident. If the rider brakes hard, the wheels may lock up and cause the bike to overturn. Antilock technology prevents this by evaluating brake pressure multiple times per second, reducing pressure when detecting an impending lockup and increasing pressure when traction is restored.

The IIHS wants the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make antilock brakes mandatory on all new motorcycles. In July 2009, the NHTSA said it was considering requiring new safety features such as antilock brakes on motorcycles. “An additional year of data and additional analyses are needed to determine the statistical significance of the results,” the NHTSA said.

See a list of 2010 model motorcycles with antilock brakes standard or as an option.

The insurance industry funds IIHS. According to the organization’s website, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit, scientific, and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries, and property damage — from crashes on the nation’s highways.

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