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Older Bikers Face Greater Risks of Injury of Death

Are you retired and thinking about fulfilling a long-held dream to take to the open road on a motorcycle? Maybe you should think again, according to a study by the University of Rochester Medical Center. Riders older than age 40 are one-and-a-half to two times more likely to die from motorcycle injuries than their younger counterparts. Longer hospital stays from nonfatal accidents are the norm for us graybeards as well. Injuries in people ages 50 to 59 are increasing the fastest, while injuries in people ages 20 to 29 are decreasing the fastest.

These findings take on added importance now that the average age of motorcyclists is increasing yearly. In 1996 the average age of motorcyclists involved in accidents was 34. It is now almost 39. Injured riders older than age 40 increased from 28 percent of those injured in 1996 to 50 percent of those injured in 2005.

Doctors attribute the increased injuries of older riders to several sources. As we age, our bodies get older and are less able to withstand injuries. Decreased bone strength is one reason. Other age-related changes such as impaired vision, altered balance, and delayed reaction time also play a part in the frequency of accidents. Furthermore, more older riders are taking to the road than ever before. The average age of motorcycle ownership rose from age 33 in 1998 to age 40 in 2003. Older riders often have more complications with heart attacks and infections than their younger enthusiasts as well.

Two things remained consistent for young and old bikers alike: the increase in injuries due to alcohol use and the failure to wear a helmet. In both age groups, approximately 27 percent of riders do not wear helmets. The research also found a link between alcohol use and lack of helmets. Riders who tested positive for alcohol were more than twice as likely to not use a helmet than their sober counterparts.

These findings are unlikely to keep older motorcyclists from firing up their engines. However, more caution is needed. One of the report's authors noted that older riders should be more careful out there. If an accident happens, they are more likely to pay a higher price than younger drivers.