Motorcycle air bags part of safety trend

Friday, September 15, 2006

MARYSVILLE, Ohio -- Statistics show motorcyclist injuries and deaths are increasing, spurring makers to install more safety features -- making greater use of antilock brakes and adding air bags while stressing safe-rider education and use of helmets.

Motorcycles accounted for 2 percent of all registered vehicles in 2004 but made up 9.4 percent of all highway deaths, government statistics show.

Honda Motor Co. added air bags in June to its fully loaded Gold Wing, an 860-pound touring bike designed for distance driving in comfort. Yamaha Motor Corp. is developing an air bag system, according to the company's Web site.

Honda's system is designed to keep the driver's body from hitting whatever the motorcycle hit and reduce the chances of the driver being thrown over the handlebars. It is not designed to protect from side or rear impacts or to protect passengers.

Tim Buche, president of the Motorcycle Industry Council, said many motorcyclists love new features and will be attracted to air bags.

But he said the market will determine whether the idea will spread.

"If air bags are going to be successful, they are going to be available on other motorcycles," he said. "It remains to be seen."

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