Do loud pipes save lives? The Ongoing myth

By: Dave MotorCycle Direct Posted: July 19th, 2016

It's a phrase quite commonly used in the motorcycle world and it tends to cause quite a stir amongst riders who each have a very different view on whether this myth is in fact the truth. Here we take a look at both sides of the story to get a better understanding of each side.

YES: Loud pipes DO Save Lives! NO: Loud pipes are just Loud!
Loud pipes save lives as they distract drivers and draw their attention towards the motorbike which they likely to have not already noticed. Many drivers can become distracted nowadays on repetitive, busy journeys so alerting them of your presence will certainly make them more aware of you and avoid any incidents. Sound from loud pipes is blasted backwards when the motorbike is moving forward. This means that some of the sound will be heard by traffic ahead, the majority of it will be thrown behind the bike therefore making the noise not a very efficient means of awareness to other road users.
The loud exhaust/engine makes a constant loud noise which hearing will pick up on and be aware of for a longer time whereas sounds such as a beep of a horn for awareness is a quick sudden noise which can distract drivers causing swerving and sudden stopping in a panic reaction. Nowadays cars make every effort to block out road noise including having features such as radio and music, making it increasingly harder to hear any noise outside of the vehicle, even the noise of ambulances for example. For this reason the loud pipes will only be heard when right next to the vehicle which may not be soon enough.
Loud pipes can save the lives of pedestrians enabling them to pick up on the noise of a bike earlier and therefore be more wary when crossing roads. This avoids incidents which may happen due to bikes being less visible than cars. A 'Hurt Report' found that 64.9% of crashes involving motorbikes were down to a car pulling out in a motorbikes path. Therefore loud pipes would not have helped this situation as the sound mainly travels behind the rider.
Manufacturer pipes are often better quality than factory standard ones that are fitted onto the bike. Better quality means a smoother efficient running bike. Loud pipes at a high frequency disturb neighbourhoods at any time of day. Studies have also found that the pitch of noise they emit can actually cause damage to the ear drums of the young and the elderly. This may not be life threatening but it can be harmful.

To conclude, there are various scenarios where loud pipes may enhance your safety but whether they save your life or not is up to the opinion of each individual.