Thursday, March 20, 2008

Loud Pipes Save Lives Debate

Loud pipes save livesI know you've read many other arguments on the issue of "loud pipes save lives".

I wanted to present a new argument on the standpoint that our society only counts fatalities, and not survivals.

The problem with the "loud pipes save lives" claim is that there's no way to measure it as being true or not. As long as riders continue to go on living, we'll never know if it was their loud pipes that saved them from accidents.

On the other hand, we can count biker deaths. But what good are biker deaths when we're trying to figure out if loud pipes save lives?

If you ride a motorcycle, I'm sure you tend to get a little anxious about being in someone's blind spot. I always accelerate or drop out of it. The fact is that I don't know if my pipes have ever saved my life. But I do have loud pipes, and yes I've been in several near misses. The fact that I'm still alive just might be attributed to those pipes.

We'll never know for sure if loud pipes save lives because government doesn't count accidents that almost happened. But ask any motorcycle rider who is still alive, and he or she will tell you about the near misses they were involved in.

The irony, however, is that many people who protest against loud pipes are often the same people that support helmet laws. They claim that helmets save lives, but how do we know that if we only count the fatalities?

The truth is that we don't have statistics on how many times a helmet saved a life. We only know how many bikers died. Instead we analyze the consequences of repealing helmet laws by comparing the before-and-after fatality rates. If we see a 0.25% or higher reduction in fatalities, we pat ourselves on the back for making progress.

So can't we also suggest that loud pipes don't always save lives, but they will increase your chances? What if a state decided to aggressively enforce its noise abatement laws and forced every motorcycle owner to reinstall their stock exhaust? Will motorcycle deaths increase?

And if they did increase, will the State apologize and reverse its decision on loud pipes? Should we experiment with the lives of motorcyclists and see if more of them die?

If we defend helmet laws with aggregate statistics, then it stands to reason that the same can be done with loud pipes. Except, we don't have such statistics.

And I don't think we ought to create any, either.

I'd like to hear your comments.


  1. I think the only people who can't hear those loud pipes are the ones driving their sealed up cars, listening to their stereo, etc...

  2. I'll say the same as I tell my daughter who wants to modify her '06 Sporty- "if loud pipes REALLY saved lives, BMW, Goldwing, and venture riders would be an extinct species".

    Most cagers can only hear those loud pipes if you are in front of them- and by then you're clear anyway...

    Spoken from the saddle of my STOCK '05 Sporty, 8th bike, after 4 countries, 250K miles and 20 years on 2-wheels.

  3. I think people should go with what they like.If you don't want to wear a helmet fine. Want loud pipes? That's fine too. Personally I don't like loud pipes and always wear my helmet. Too each his/her own.

  4. Statistics have shown that helmets save lives but not pipes. You want loud pipes? Cool, go for it. When I am in a cage I cant hear them until they pass me. It boils down to rider skill and judgement. If you are going to depend on loud pipes to save you, I don't want you in my group ride.

  5. "Loud pipes save lives" is a rationalization by bikers who want to think they are cool and are looking for a defense for annoying people. If it were true, how do you explain why riders with OEM pipes seem to get along just fine? We do have a segment of our society that makes noise just to hear themselves make noise. We call them children.

  6. "Most cagers can only hear those loud pipes if you are in front of them- and by then you're clear anyway..."

    I personally don't like load pipes especially Harley's, but the argument that people can't hear loud pipes are way overblown.

    Even regular car engines can be heard while driving, and countless times I've heard a loud bike approaching from behind (especially in an urban setting where sound bounces off of all the buildings/houses). Other times I've been aware of a bike two lanes over just because of the engine sound.

    It's sort of like wearing a safety vest, it might help people be more aware of you, but you shouldn't rely on it.

  7. The trouble with "Making Noise" and then counting on it to "save your butt" is that our society is a cacophony of racket... How's that for fancy vocabulary from a worn out ol' biker cowboy? :)

    The thing is... people, for the most part tend to "Tune Out" all the noise... proof of my point? How many times have you seen the cars pull out into an intersection directly in front of the Fire Engine... with sirens and lights and air horns BLASTING!!! and THEY, the damn fool cagers, are oblivius?

    Counting on noise and bright clothing as your primary defesnse... is just about the same as Gambling in Vegas to make your living... Luck with that.

    If you want loud pipes, bright colors go for it... That is your choice... but for your PRIMARY tool of self defense on Two Wheels, I suggest adopting the riding philosophy that you are invisible... That the cagers can't, or WON'T see you...

    Then, you automatically begin to NOT allow yourself into the situation/place where they can give you a tire tread tatoo!

    Just saying...

  8. "They claim that helmets save lives, but how do we know that if we only count the fatalities?"

    How about observing a paramedic cut a bashed and mangled helmet from a biker who's been sliding down the asphalt on his noggin and finding an intact head attached to a living body? How about asking why the racers at Daytona all wear helmets when they're pushing 200mph?

    There's no debate.

    There's also no debate that when one of my neighbors lets his straight-piped Sportster idle in his driveway for several minutes at 5:00 A.M. on summer mornings it pisses people off who thought they had another hour of sleep.

    Keep those loud pipes. Make all the noise you can. When bikes are outlawed because the unknowing vote for lawmakers that promise to do something about the noise, you can always put cherry bombs on your four wheeler. If you haven't already.

    Right now I have four bikes. All with stock, or very quiet exhausts. Just on the bikes in my garage there's over 140,000 miles (put there by me). I passed the quarter-million mile mark about 1990. I'm almost 60 years old, been riding on the street since I was 14 (Texas), and, according to my last hearing test, I've got better ears than most teenagers. There's something else to think about, eh?


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)