The mantra “loud pipes save lives” has been repeated among motorcycle enthusiasts for decades. Is there any truth to this bit of folk wisdom?
If you listen to the anecdotal stories of others, you’re bound to hear from people who are convinced that the only reason they avoided a wreck or two was the fact that their exhaust pipes warned a driver they were there. However, one of the few scientific studies on the subject says that the saying may be more “wishful thinking” than reality.
Once upon a time, loud pipes may have helped – but things have changed
Air conditioning was only available in a few luxury vehicles in the 1940s, but it wasn’t remotely common in passenger cars for many decades. Even by the end of the 1960s, only a little more than half of all new cars came with A/C. Back in the day when people routinely kept their car windows down for ventilation in the summer, drivers probably could hear a motorcycle’s approach.
Today, vehicles are almost uniformly air-conditioned – and they’re very well-insulated. Researchers have determined that even the loudest motorcycle can’t be heard by the occupants of a passenger vehicle further than 33 feet away. In addition, that’s only when the driver and passengers were straining to hear the motorcycle. Therefore, the distance would be even smaller if they happened to be talking or listening to music.
In the vast majority of cases, drivers were unable to hear a motorcycle until its front wheel was right next to the rear wheel of the passenger vehicle. That’s far too close to give the driver enough notice of their presence.
Inattentive drivers are a big hazard for motorcyclists, and there are far too many of them out there on the road – but don’t trust your pipes to get their attention. You need to always be on the defensive. If you’re injured in a crash that wasn’t your fault, experienced legal guidance can help you get fair compensation.