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Accident avoidance...To brake or to swerve?


The purpose of this article is solely for information purposes. It is not the intent of this article to encourage or recommend any type of maneuver.

When a rider is confronted with a sudden obstacle ( be a car pulling in his line, a deer crossing the road etc. etc.) he has to evaluate the situation and decide how to react. His primary options are to attempt to brake to a stop or swerve around the obstacle.


Which decision is more likely to result in avoiding the accident is based on physics of movement (kinematics).

Based on experimental data and published accident investigations we can plot the required distance to brake and the distance to swerve.


As braking distance increases by the square of the speed, we draw the following conclusions:


If traveling from 0 to 50 MPH (give or take 5 miles depending on road conditions and rider skills) braking is the best option.


Traveling in excess of 50 MPH the braking distance increases exponentially and swerving becomes the best option.


Since both braking and swerving are maneuvers based on the law of physics, we can conclude (in general) at “lower” speeds, braking is the better accident-avoidance maneuver, while at “higher” speeds, swerving is the better one.