Who woulda thunk? The number of people over 60 riding motorcycles is on the rise. In the past few years, the number of cyclists over 50 increased approximately from 1 in 10 to about 1 in 4. Unfortunately, along with this increase come a growing number of serious injuries.
Studies now show that older motorcyclists are likely to sustain more serious injuries than younger cyclists, and are more likely to be hospitalized. In a recent seven-year study by Brown University, there were an estimated 1.5 million injuries in all age groups involved in motorcycle accidents over the study period.
The study divided the injured motorcyclists into three age groups: 20-39, 40-59 and 60 and older. During the study period, the number of accidents in all groups rose, but the most significant rise occurred in the oldest group.
Those 60 or older were two-and-one-half times more likely to incur serious injuries, and three times more likely to be admitted to a hospital for emergency care. Those aged 40-59, the middle agers, were twice as likely as the youngest group to be hospitalized.
Older motorcyclists sustain more serious injuries in motorcycle accidents
The study found that fractures and dislocations were the most common types of injury for all of the age groups. However, the older and middle aged groups sustained a higher proportion of upper trunk injuries and fractures than the youngest group, especially chest and rib cage injuries.
The most common internal organ injury for all age groups was traumatic brain injury. Overall, older cyclists were more likely to have internal organ injuries, whereas the youngest group was more likely to sustain serious contusions, abrasions, strains and sprains in the same type of accident
Commenting on the results, the authors of the study said, “The greater severity of injuries among older adults may be due to the physiological changes that occur as the body ages.”
Declines in vision and reaction time may make older riders more prone to mistakes in judgment that can result in motorcycle accidents. The authors also noted that those with heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions may lead to more serious outcomes.
One of the researchers Tracy L. Jackson said of the more serious injuries among the elderly that there is greater fragility that comes with aging. She said, “Your bones become more brittle, and you lose muscle mass as you get older. It could just be a matter of aging and the body being less durable.”
Ms. Jackson also said that it is possible that because older riders tend to ride bigger bikes, they may be more likely to roll or turn over.
How to keep older motorcyclists from sustaining serious injuries in a crash
Here are a couple of common sense tips on how to keep older bikers safer.
- Always wear a helmet and safety belt
- Wear good quality goggles to protect your eyes
- Upper body clothing should be brightly colored, like a lightweight reflective orange or yellow over the jacket
- Always wear long pants that are not baggy or flared
- Wear leather non-slip gloves to improve grip
- Wear leather chaps for best protection
- Wear specially made leather motorcycle boots
- Train regularly to hone your skills
- Don’t speed
- Drive during the daylight hours and in good weather
- Don’t buy more bike than you can handle
- Get a bike with antilock brakes
- Check your motorcycle before going for a ride making sure lights, horn, and directional signals are working. Also check the tires for wear and tear and correct pressure, the chain, belt, or shaft, and the brakes
- If you are a new cyclist, take a motorcycle riding course
- Watch for debris, hazards and cars
No one wants to be a party pooper and take away the fun and freedom motorcyclists experience, so try and heed the above recommendations. Above all, remain sober, alert, undistracted, cautious and patient.
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