Saturday, June 6, 2009

Do loud pipes really save lives?

Loud pipes are common on Harleys and most Harley riders are quick to say "loud pipes save lives" but is there any quantative proof to this claim? Police bikes are typically very quiet, you'd think with all the investment in training a motorcycle cop they'd put loud pipes on the bikes, if it made a difference. Are there any statistics to support this claim or is it just an excuse to make some noise?

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19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it's just an excuse to make noise. Because while the statment appears to be safety minded, I've noticed the people making that claim are usually wearing skullcaps, riding without safety apparel or black jackets, on a black bike. If they really believed it they would be dressed in hi-vis helmets, jackets, be riding a colorful bike with multiple headlights. All things to make themselves more visible to go along with their loud pipes.

Canajun said...

There's no doubt that making a hell of a racket will attract attention, but how effective it is in attracting the attention of a soccer mom (or dad) in a minivan full of kids, the stereo blasting, and speaking on a cellphone, is in my opinion very questionable.

I also have to agree with anonymous. If safety was the primary reason we'd see a lot more day-glo orange on the roads.

However I would still be interested in see any real evidence one way or the other.

mq01 said...

Hmmm....interesting question. I am one of those that prefer loud pipes. The soccer moms and dads that are preoccupied may notice when I wrap the throttle... But I would be interested in evidence as well.

David said...

There doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence to support this claim. The point about day glow gear is very valid, if you really want to increase your safety you'll make you and your bike as visible as possible.

Yipper said...

Loud pipes create low frequency sounds directed behind the bike. Many bikers want the lowest (bass) sound they can get. They'll spend thousands of dollars to get that "rumble".

Low frequency sounds are hard to pinpoint (in both direction and distance). They also do not penetrate into cars or closed structures that well. Studies have shown that the best sounds to attract attention are high frequencies directed forward (as in a police siren). If the loud pipes crowd actually wanted to increase safety, they are doing it in the completely wrong way.

"Loud pipes save lives" is a lie, pure and simple.

Fred said...

If loud pipes save lives imagine what proper gear and training could do....

Michael D. Hall said...

The "loud pipes save lives" seems to be an anecdotal observation that has been hijacked by attention mongers as an excuse for bad behavior. I live near a town square and from spring to summer the little man-children ride up and down back and forth from the bars literally 24-7. No mufflers and they sit at the two intersections up and down from my home and rev and cause as much racket as possible. These people aren't interested in safety. They're interested in "being manly" and "being tough." You want to know what's tough and manly, soothing your one year old back to sleep night after night because of some little men who have no civility. I'm sitting at my kitchen table on a Saturday afternoon listening to yet another symphony of self-centered riders revving their engines all through the town.

BTW, I own a 2006 V-Rod with STOCK PIPES. And it's hella fast and feels great. I don't have to wake the neighborhood to feel cool riding it.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about safety, that sound is worth it. Loud pipes rule.

Anonymous said...

Hell yes, Michael. I never hear those things in my "cage" till AFTER they've passed me.

Know when I do hear it though? All day and night lying in bed, trying to talk on the phone, or even to have a normal conversation in my own !@#$ house.

Back when I rode a bike I did put pipes on. Even as a worthless kid, I never fooled myself I was doing it to "save lives", and even then I tried not to open it up near the neighborhoods. But, they say karma is sevenfold.

Kat said...

Mom's preoccupied, loud stereos, ppl on cell phones, I have been a passenger on a bike for over 10 years now, I always help watch for dangers like, people at intersections, kids, dogs, or any other danger. A loud rap on the throttle does make people pay attention...but only if their windows are open, or if they are outside. Our loud pipes have saved us many times from deer, people, dogs and kids...I have personally seen my life flash before my eyes as I point out a deer or a dog on the side of the road...then the pipes roar...and the critter takes notice!
I don't know of any documented proof...but I truly believe that loud pipes save lives!

Kat
http://bit.ly/bzsraG

Timothy said...

Loud pipes do save lives... When you can hear a bike coming, comon sense tells you to be cautious. When you dont hear anything, your less focused. If loud pipes save even one persons life, they are worth it. A life is worth way more than an opinion...

Anonymous said...

If riding a motorcycle is so dangerous that it needs to make loud noises then they're too dangerous to be on the road.

-Mark D. said...

"...too dangerous to be on the road."

While I do agree that there are a bunch of idiots out there on motorcycles, purely due to the ratio of bikes/cars, there's a whole lot more idiots behind the wheel of a 4-wheeled missile. I argue that while many bikers lives are lost to stupidity on the part of the pilot, I'm willing to guarantee that at least an equal number are lost to other negligent people in their car drinking a soda, smoking a cig, and talking on the phone while using their knees to drive. When was the last time you saw a biker on the cell phone, eating/drinking something, or talking to their passenger while taking their eyes completely off the road? I'm guessing never.

Do loud pipes save lives? I think that's what we all tell our wives and mothers when we get a bike and want to justify buying some ear-splitting pipes. ...but is there any element of truth to it? Absolutely. When was the last time a super quiet bike went by and you didn't even notice it? ...oh wait, you can't tell me because you didn't even notice it existed.

BUT: When was the last time a nasty loud cruiser rumbled by or a sport bike buzzed by without you at least glancing at it or noticing it's very existence? Every damn time. Does this mean that no one will ever pull out in front of a really loud bike? Absolutely not.

On to the 'wildlife' element: Deer, raccoons, dogs, etc don't wear earmuff's, they're not deaf, they're not distracted by "multi-tasking" while driving, and they have that instinct to retreat from loud sounds. In fact, nearly all road-kill animals have far superior hearing to human.

If a bike is just that much louder than the cars/trucks that much of the wildlife has become immune to, it will still get their attention. Fact, there's less room for error and greater risk of injury in the event of a road hazard or need for accident avoidance.

The sole claim of safety as justification for loud pipes is stupid, but as a supporting argument, I fully endorse that theory. It's one of many 'safety' assists.

Blackbird1100 said...

The claim is that loud pipes save lives,but the reality is,a lot of people with tortured ears from the incessant din of the "look at me" crowd are glad when this premise fails. A moment of silence for the fallen,please.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the whole argument is that no one collects statistics on how many accidents are AVOIDED because an otherwise distracted cage driver hears a bike and doesn't do something stupid. I can attest to that, as while driving a rental in California and wanting to switch lanes in heavy traffic, I didn't ONLY because I heard a bike with loud exhaust "splitting the lanes" .... something totally legal in California. If it wasn't for the rumble of the pipes and me NOT switching lanes until I figured out where it was coming from, there would be 1 fewer biker in this world today. I'm sure there are many stories that would be similar, but it doesn't seem anyone wants to ask about them...

Anonymous said...

I agree with M. D. Hall...What a bunch of big babies... Did they not get enough attention as children? Loud pipes are just a big cry for attention, "hey look at me". By the way... These are the same people who put loud exhaust on their black pickup trucks, like its hard to miss the chevy with 22 inch wheels an 8 inch lift... The culture as a whole just want to be recognized as a bunch of bad asses that's why you buy a big loud bike in the first place, not because they can stop faster and thus avoid accidents, it's not to save fuel, my civic get better mileage... and safety wise... lets face it, if we all wanted to be that safe, we'd all be driving Hummers, another babies toy by the way. Is this what this country has come down to...? America... We make the loudest motorcycles and the most wastefull cars, and nuthin' else. No wonder we're falling from grace. Get over yourselves... Oh, and if you want to be safe... wear a full set of padded leathers in hot pink, and see if you still feel like a bad ass getting off that hog looking like a giant bunny.

Dan T. said...

It is a ego thing in that folks just like the sound. One poster a few back said people will notice as he goes by them, well that's it, he's already gone by. How does that help?? Just admit you like the sound of the loud exhaust and it's not saving any lives. Jeez.

WildWill said...

To Anonymous that name says it all first:you most likely have never riden a bike (vespas don't count)and have a hard one for bikers in general, most likely your one of those who ride with a helment and shorts and sandels. I even bet your always going to your local starbucks;so know what your talking about before you open you mouth.But hey what do I know been riding since 1969 and have'nt been killed yet,almost when a car turned in front of me in 84' and the bitch said I heard him but I did'nt even seen him. Course she was tilting a bottle at the time but I will not chance and to those you say annouce thier arrival well I bet thast the first biker that young yuppie ever own also. So Mr. Anonymous my name is Wild WIll former Patch holder and proud vet who rides a damn loud bike . so just keep your chicken shit ass on your vespa and drink your latte Mr. Im to chicken shit to say YOUR name.

WildWill SSFFSS

Steve in PA said...

It's true that there are no stats on accidents that did not happen. The stat of interest would be of motorcycles involved in fatal accidents, how many of the bikes had loud vs. not loud pipes. If the loud pipes crowd is correct, there should be a very few bikes with loud pipes having fatal bike/car accidents. I had no luck in finding that - probably not a reported factor.

Earlier posts noted that the safety argument is probably a bit of a sham; if a rider is really interested in safety, he/she would be proactive with helmets, protective gear, etc. I suspect many riders who have loud pipes don't concern themselves with addressing these safety factors. Here is an interesting site with some statistics (http://www.edgarsnyder.com/motorcycle-accident/statistics.html) Note that half of the fatalities were related to lack of helmets, about a third to intoxication. The bigger bang-for-the buck solution to fatal accidents might be to be responsible rather than loud.

For myself, I always were a helmet and protective gear and never have a drink, even one beer, when I'm riding - I figure even losing a tiny bit of alertness isn't worth the potential cost.