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University studies track injuries to older motorcyclists

Motorcyclists nationwide are growing older: Between 1998 and 2003, the average age of motorcycle owners rose from 33 to 40, according to data from the Motorcycle Industry Council. Two studies, one by researchers from Brown University and one by staff at the University of Rochester Medical Center, collected data about older motorcycle riders and the injuries they suffer as the result of crashes.

Comparisons to younger bikers showed that the injuries the older group sustained resulted in more frequent and longer hospital stays.

Information from records reviewed

Using data from the National Trauma Databank, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers reviewed medical records from 61,689 motorcycle riders aged 17 to 89 who had been in motorcycle accidents. The URMC study found that the severity of injuries and resulting length of hospital stay were higher for riders over 40 than for their younger counterparts. Although their injuries were more severe on average, older riders were also likelier to die from less serious injuries than were younger bikers.

Motorcycle fatalities continue

There were 8.6 million motorcycles on U.S. roads in 2015. According to the statistics that year from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle riders were 29 times likelier to die in a crash than were people in passenger cars, based on vehicle miles traveled. Older riders accounted for more than 50 percent of all motorcycle fatalities. The Brown University researchers found that the causes of motorcycle accidents involving older riders included reduced reaction time, failing vision and surprisingly, the larger motorcycles that mature riders prefer, the reason being that heavier bikes roll over more often than lighter bikes.

Injuries keep rising

The Brown University study incorporated data on motorcyclists who were grouped by age: 20 to 39, 40 to 59 and age 60 and over. Results showed that while injuries were on the rise for all groups, the steepest occurred in the 60-and-over group. Members of both older groups were likelier to suffer broken bones, dislocations and other debilitating issues such as brain injuries.

Indomitable riders

It is often said that growing older is not for the faint of heart. Neither, evidently, is motorcycle riding for the older crowd. However, it is also true that motorcyclists, whatever their age, are not always the parties responsible for a crash, and despite the injuries they may receive, many return to the open road as soon as they possibly can.