While the number of motorcycles on roads around the world is steadily increasing, safety legislation to protect riders has barely budged over the decades. Considering that cars sold in most parts of the world are required by law to onboard some form of ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) and that motorcycles are involved in 12 percent of US fatal motor vehicle crashes, this is quite surprising.

Motorcycles are both less stable and less easy to spot than cars. Many have powerful engines relative to their size and can reach incredibly high speeds. When motorcycles crash (as they often do), riders don’t have the luxury of a chassis to offer added protection. In the event of a crash, bikers generally come off their bikes and, as statistics show, are far more likely to be injured or killed.

To add fuel to the fire, we are close to having 1 billion motorcycles on roads worldwide (the current figure is  600 million with sales showing no signs of abating). Despite skyrocketing gas prices, a shortage of microchips, and rising inflation (all of which impact manufacturing and transportation costs), the motorcycle industry has seen healthy sales. 40.5 million motorcycles were sold in the first 9 months of 2022 - a rise of 3.7% over the previous year.

In the face of rising motorcycle ownership, why aren’t governments also legislating the use of safety technologies for motorcycles and why aren't they doing more to protect some of the most vulnerable road users?

Keeping Drivers Safe

There is a wealth of legislation designed to protect car drivers. In July 2022, the EU introduced new measures for increasing driver safety including adding technologies for intelligent speed assistance, reversing detection with cameras or sensors, attention warnings in case of driver drowsiness or distraction, and a whole lot more. The cornerstone of these measures, said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, was to leverage technology to "Help us to increase the level of safety of our cars.” No mention of motorcycles.

In the USA, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) launched a campaign to raise awareness about the safety technologies available for cars and encourage their widespread use. No mention of motorcycles.

In Israel, all new cars have been required to come installed with a driver-assistance system since 2017. Again, no mention of motorcycles.

Stability control technology, which includes ABS brakes and anti-skid technology, has been proven to save lives. These features have been mandated in all new cars in Europe since 2014. Unfortunately, this is not the same for motorcycles.

ADAS are becoming a standard for cars

ADAS are technological solutions aimed at reducing the human errors that cause vehicle accidents. There are many different types of ADAS on the market but, broadly speaking, they alert drivers to dangers and obstacles, e.g., lane changes, blind spot data, and more.

In most countries, there are governmental organizations that promote vehicle safety and make recommendations that then go on to become legislation. Most of these organizations recommend that ADAS be incorporated into cars, trucks, and buses from the time of manufacture. They don’t mention motorcycles.

Is a helmet enough?

It’s not easy to find examples of legislation that has been passed to protect motorcycle riders and that might be because the legislation still needs to be devised.

When it comes to motorcycles, the limited legislation that does exist covers helmet use and eye protection, and in certain countries, the use of ABS brakes, MSC motorcycle stability control, or traction control.  In 2019, the EU passed regulations that require anti-lock braking systems on new motorcycles of more than 125 cm3. However, the same set of laws stated that on a 2-wheeled motorcycle under 125 cm3, anti-lock brakes are not needed – a pity as drivers of smaller motorcycles are no less vulnerable than those of larger ones.

In the United States, many of the laws about motorcycle rider safety cover safety apparel. These items protect a rider in the event of an accident, but unlike ADAS, they can do nothing to try and prevent the accident from happening in the first place.

The protective apparel required by the NHTSA includes a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218-compliant helmet, heavy-duty jacket and pants, boots, gloves, and eye protection. In a recent safety report, the US National Transportation Safety Board recommended mandatory ABS brakes on all motorcycles, but, like all the recommendations, these are merely suggestions and not laws.

The gap between the legal safety requirements for cars and motorcycles is staggering and unnecessary.

Safety for motorcycles, what’s next?

It's not that there are no safety regulations for motorcycles, it's just that the regulations are sparse and do not cover the use of the most advanced technologies as they do for cars. Perhaps historically, there were more cars on the roads, so this was the logical place to begin, but in recent years motorcycles are clearly outstripping cars on the roads – especially in urban settings where congestion and parking issues make motorcycle ownership a more practical choice.

Ride Vision was founded to bridge the gap and provide ADAS or ARAS (Advanced Rider Assistance Systems) solutions for motorcycles. Ride Vision is an advanced AI-based collision avoidance solution that has been designed specifically for motorcycles. The lightweight and unobtrusive system can be incorporated into any make or model of bike and provides vital warnings in real time to help riders respond to dangers and avoid collisions or accidents.

It's time to raise awareness about technologies that can prevent motorcycle accidents and deaths and get some laws in place to ensure everyone has a chance to use them.

Written by Abi Solomon, VP of Marketing at Ride Vision