Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Two Innovative Technologies to Increase Motorcycle Safety

Motorcyclists face a unique set of challenges on the road since their preferred vehicle is smaller and handles differently from other vehicles on the road. Safety on the road is one of the most important considerations for motorcyclists, especially regarding accidents. The World Health Organization’s latest report shows that road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.24 million deaths globally in 2010, down from 1.26 million a decade earlier. Half of these deaths occurred among pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. In light of these statistics, many companies are finding new ways to make coexistence between motor vehicles and motorcycles safer. 

A new type of safety light

Traditionally, many motorcycle organizations and state departments of vehicles encourage motorcyclists to flash their brakes when they decelerate, but a company called Vectolabs is looking to automate the deceleration warning.

Vololights are a new type of light that illuminates when the motorcyclist slows down, regardless of whether or not the rider is using the brakes. According to an article from Fox News, Vololights will flash twice per second if a motorcyclist accelerates or downshifts, or flash five times per second if the rider uses the brakes. Vololights consist of two sets of LEDs built onto a license plate holder fitted with an accelerometer and CPU.

Vectolabs claims the lights fit a wide variety of motorcycles, including some classic bikes like 1960s Vespa scooters. Vectolabs assumes the lights will conform to state and federal legal requirements, but urges interested riders to check their local laws before considering them. The lights have a stealth mode that turns off the system if the lights are not allowed.

Anti-lock brakes

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported in a study that motorcycles equipped with antilock braking systems (ABS) are 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than models without ABS. Today, most major brands include the system on their biggest motorcycles and make it available to place on mid-level motorcycles, but more entry-level bikes would also benefit from the technology. 

Antilock braking systems allow riders to apply the brakes with full force without holding back due to a fear of locking up a wheel. ABS can also reduce brake pressure if a lockup is impending or increase pressure again when the bike is under control. Without the technology, a wheel can lock if the brakes are hit too hard or with the wrong front/rear distribution and cause the rider to lose control and eventually fall off the motorcycle. If the brakes are squeezed too gently on a bike without ABS, then the motorcyclist might not stop in time to avoid a crash.

Antilock braking technology has raised doubt in many motorcycling enthusiasts, the New York Daily News reports. Many think the technology is a waste of money, impedes a new rider from actually learning to handle a motorcycle whatever the road situation and that it’s not failsafe. Nevertheless, studies of fatal crashes, insurance claims and test track performance indicate that antilock brakes are an important element of motorcycle safety.

Sarah Parr writes about motorcycle safety issues for Freedom Cycle Magazine.

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