It’s a myth! Louder motorcycles are not safer. In fact, the opposite may be true. The popular refrain sounded by some motorcyclists is that loud pipes save lives. It’s that sound of engine and exhaust noise that many associate with the motorcycle world. There are a lot of bikers who think that the louder their motorcycles, the safer they will be because they will be more obvious to other drivers on the road.
I’m personal injury attorney Mike Lombardi. And I’m here to tell you that loud pipes do not save lives. In fact, studies show that loud motorcycles are at a higher risk of being involved in an accident. And here’s why.
The Doppler effect
To understand why a lot of bikes are more dangerous, you have to understand the Doppler effect. You may not know what that is, but you’ve certainly experienced it. The Doppler effect refers to how we perceive changes in sound when the source of the sound is moving like a train or a siren.
Why louder motorcycles are more dangerous
This also affects where we think a sound might be coming from. With a motorcycle, we may hear an approach from some distance ahead or behind us, but we won’t be able to hear just how loud it is and where the sound is coming from until it’s right next to us.
The noise is coming from the exhaust, the back of the bike, not the front. The biker thinks we can hear it as loud as he can, but we can’t. This gives the biker a dangerous sense of confidence. By the time we know where the bike is, it might be too late to avoid an accident.
In addition, a loud motorcycle suddenly appearing could scare the wits out of any driver, causing him to make a driving mistake not in your favor.
Lastly, there is a phenomenon known as noise fatigue, which many motorcyclists may experience who have had prolonged exposure to loud noise. It can cause hearing loss, which reduces the biker’s capacity to perceive and react to audible danger signs.
How to be safer
Loud motorcycles are not safer. Quite the opposite. Don’t rely on loud pipes to keep you safe. Instead, wear brightly colored protective gear. Keep your headlights on when driving day or night, and keep yourself visible in all ways possible.
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