The anti-lock braking system was among the many important safety accessories for powered two-wheelers (especially motorcycles) that became a major discussion in the recently concluded Dialogue on Powered Two-Wheeler (PTW) Safety conducted by the Global Regional Road Safety Observatories as a pre-meeting event of the Asia-Pacific Road Safety Observatory Annual Meeting held at the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila.
I was very fortunate to be able to attend this activity on October 11-13, 2022 as one of the speakers in the opening session and the dialogue on supporting action for PTW safety. I represented the Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety, the membership and youth mobilization arm of the Youth for Road Safety (YOURS) with the support of the Global Road Safety Partnership.
PTWs, through the lens of a typical motorcycle user in a low-middle income country (LMIC), is more of a means to get along with daily life’s challenges. As emphasized by several speakers, PTWs can become a work vehicle, a leisure vehicle, a cargo vehicle, and to extreme uses, even a family vehicle. Facts were also presented that these motor vehicles tend to account to the most number of fatalities in road crashes.
With that, the Towards Zero Foundation (TZF) took the lead in promoting the application of anti-lock braking system (ABS) as a means to reduce the severity of road crashes involving motorcycles. Their campaign aimed “to increase the fitment rate of motorcycle ABS in [Southeast Asia] by raising awareness of the benefits of a motorcycle ABS and increasing consumer demand”. Likewise, they also “advocate for [commitment in the ASEAN region] to mandate motorcycle ABS [aligned with United Nations Regulation No. 78 and Global Technical Regulation No. 3] on all PTWs capable of travel speeds of 50 kilometers per hour or greater.”
The Southeast Asia holds among the highest number of road crash deaths involving motorcyclists. Globally, it also accounts to about 29 percent of all road traffic deaths. The TZF also noted that ASEAN has a larger share of motorcyclist deaths accounting to 62 percent of all road crash fatalities with Indonesia and Thailand having rider fatalities has high as 74 percent.
In the TZF status report of motorcycle ABS in ASEAN, it showed that countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam have the highest motorcycle ownership. With the COVID-19 pandemic shifting preference to more personalized modes of travel like the motorcycle, it is also expected that countries like the Philippines have a steady increase in motorcycle use.
The ABS is a motorcycle accessory which prevents its wheels from locking during braking. This accessory uses speed sensors on both wheels to determine speed as well as sensors to determine when a wheel is about to lock. As it reacts to the braking motorcycle, it maintains its stability to ensure a safe stop while having a reduced stopping distance. With motorcycles involved in most fatal road crash cases, the ABS is seen to reduced fatality and sever injury.
During the discussion in the dialogue, cost was one of the factors which divided the participants’ views. With the lack of context, it can be viewed that LMICs have less priority over safety given that this technology, although already available since 1988, was highly unfamiliar and not mandated. At present, the ABS would cost ranging between 40 to 70 USD (~ PHP2,500-4,000) plus installation. In the market, it is also not a built-in feature at the moment as no law required it to be installed in new motorcycle units. With the costs considered, the ABS can increase the cost of a motorcycle in the Philippines by at least 10 percent.
The challenge in implementing this in the country is the level of appreciation of safety as an added investment. Most users of motorcycles in the Philippines, for example, are those who have difficulty in accessing public transport or those who simply could not afford a car. Thus, economic standing is critical toward the acceptance of this added cost to motorcyclists. In the same report of the TZF where at least five Filipinos were respondents, it showed that majority (72% of all respondents) are willing to pay for the added cost of ABS provided that it cost USD100 or less (< PHP 5,900).
The installation or equipment of ABS in motorcycles is said to reduce related crashes and fatalities by 33 percent in the ASEAN region accounting of at least 8,000 lives saved per year. Having these considered, leaders especially in the transport sector should lay out the discussion of mandatory use of ABS and a transition to its full use in the coming years.