Loud pipes save lives or so the saying goes. This saying has been the mantra for a number of riders both casual and life time who believe it to be fact without ever considering the other side. The idea is a simple one embodied by the mantra. A motorcycle with a set of loud aftermarket pipes is going to be heard clearly in the din of traffic alerting distracted drivers to the rider’s presence. It is known and acknowledged that motorcycle safety is of upmost concern for riders and drivers but are the loud exhaust systems truly needed or is further motorcycle education the best way to save lives. There are two camps to this issue with both camps feeling rather strongly about it.
It is hard to find empirical evidence to support the ‘Loud pipes saves lives’ campaign. Instead, this camp often relies on anecdotal evidence. Tales of a time a driver stopped changing lanes at the sound of loud pipes saving the rider from a wreck. It makes a bit of sense, the louder the vehicle the more aware other drivers will be of that vehicle but do loud exhausts actually save lives? This is a question that seems to have, at the same time, numerous answers and no answers. Many of the answers remain vague and float just above factual statements supported by numbers and statics.
Loud pipes seem to only cause problems with riders and the community adding to the prejudice that motorcycle riders are criminal delinquents that could care less about anyone else. Perhaps one of the most damaging statements made against the case of loud pipes comes from the American Motorcycle Association. The AMA has stated that the association “…believes that few other factors contribute more to misunderstanding and prejudice against the motorcycling community than excessively noisy motorcycles.” Many others point out that if loud pipes are to save anyone’s lives than the exhaust system should be pointed toward the front of the bike and not to the back much like the sirens on an ambulance.
The real issue though is not loud pipes versus pipes at the acceptable noise levels but motorcycle safety as a whole. Defensive driving on the rider’s and driver’s part is the only way lives will be saved on a consistent basis. Education and training will save more riders than the deafening thunder of aftermarket exhaust