A Word of Caution for Older Motorcyclists

A report by the New York Times’ Wellness blog on February 8 cautions aging motorcycle riders to take care in avoiding serious injury. This is the message of a new study, published this week in the journal “Injury Prevention”, which found that older bikers are three times as likely to be severely injured in a crash as younger riders. The percentage of older bikers on the road is rising, and their growing accident rate is alarming. Nationwide, from 1990 to 2003, the percentage of motorcyclists over age 50 soared from roughly 1 in 10 to 1 in 4. Injury rates among those 65 and older jumped 145 percent from 2000 to 2006 alone. Due to the increase in motorcycle ridership among older Americans, the epidemiology department at Brown University wanted to take a closer look at their injury patterns. The study combed through a federal database of motorcycle crashes that were serious enough to require emergency medical care. That yielded about 1.5 million incidents involving motorcyclists 20 or older from 2001 to 2008. The researchers then split motorcyclists into groups: 20 to 39, 40 to 59, and those 60 and older. Overall, injury rates for all three groups were on the rise, but the rise was steepest for the oldest riders. Compared with the youngest motorcyclists, those who were 60 and older were two and a half times as likely to end up with serious injuries, and three times as likely to be admitted to a hospital. Middle-aged riders were twice as likely as their younger counterparts to be hospitalized. Older and middle-aged bikers were more likely to sustain fractures and dislocations after a collision, and they had a far greater chance of ending up with internal injuries. A number of factors may have played a role in older riders’ higher injury rates. For one, there’s a decline in vision and reaction time. Older riders also tend to ride bigger bikes, which may be more likely to roll over. Then there is the greater fragility that comes with age. “Your bones become more brittle, and you lose muscle mass as you get older,” said Tracy Jackson, the leading researcher of the study. If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motorcycle collision, contact us for a free appraisal.