Study shows older motorcycle riders risk greater injuries

Consumer Reports News: February 11, 2013 08:08 AM

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Over the past two decades, the average age of motorcycle riders has increased, and a new report shows that injury rates have risen at an even greater rate for older riders.

Older bikers are three times as likely to be seriously injured in crashes than younger riders, despite being in fewer wrecks.

The key distinction is that while younger riders, aged 20 to 39 years, were in far more accidents from 2001 to 2008 (921,229 incidents) than the oldest age group (65,660), those aged 60 and over were found to be much more likely to experience a severe injury. The older riders were shown to suffer more head and chest injuries, and to be more likely to die as a result of their injuries. Bikers in this age group were also three times as likely to be admitted to a hospital after a crash as were those in their 20s and 30s.

The findings were published online last week at the peer-reviewed journal Injury Prevention.

Among the authors' conclusions is that older adults experience more severe injuries due to the physiological effects of the aging process. In other words, getting old sucks. The report states: "As the body ages, bone strength decreases, subcutaneous and visceral fat distribution may change, and there is a decrease in the elasticity of the chest wall, factors which may lead to more severe injuries after exposure to trauma." Like I said...

The study goes on to cite risk factors for older riders that include delayed reaction time, altered balance, and worsening vision. Factor in the greater likelihood of a pre-existing health condition, and it is plain to see that older riders face greater survival challenges on two wheels. And now there is a comprehensive study to validate what previously may have been considered common sense.

The conclusions from the study include some valuable lessons:

  • Many older riders may be new to motorcycling, or may have rusty skills. Motorcycle safety courses are recommended for new riders, as well as refresher courses for experienced riders.

  • Injury risks increase with age, compounding the inherent risks associated with riding.

  • Using a DOT-approved helmet can reduce the risk for head injuries.

  • Middle-aged and older riders may benefit from chest protection.

See our motorcycle and scooter buying advice.

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Jeff Bartlett

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