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Study: Older Motorcyclists More Likely to Be Injured in Accidents

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Older man riding motorcycle

(Image captured from video appearing at end of post.)

A new report published in the journal Injury Prevention finds that older motorcycle riders are more likely to suffer injuries in crashes. As Jeff Bartlett writes for, older motorcyclists are three times as likely to be seriously injured in traffic accidents than younger riders, despite being in fewer wrecks.

The study, by Tracy L. Jackson and Michael J. Mello of Brown University’s Department of Epidemiology, shows that although injuries in all age groups increased from 2001 to 2008, the greatest rate of increase in that time span occurred in the oldest age group, an estimated 65,660 people age 60 and older.

The researchers looked at cross-sectional data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program to evaluate motorcycle accident injuries in emergency departments in the U.S. writes:

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.’ […]

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.

According to an abstract of the study: “The increased number of older adults riding motorcycles should put further focus on risk of injury to this population.” The researchers point out that injury risks increase with age. The study recommends that older riders, who might be rusty or new to motorcycling, take refresher or safety courses, and that they use DOT-approved helmets. In addition, as writes, the study says that middle-aged and older riders can also benefit from chest protection.

The state of Colorado does not require motorcyclists to wear helmets unless they are under the age of 18, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which points out that in 2006, 65% of fatally injured motorcycle riders were not wearing a helmet in states without all-rider helmet laws, whereas only 13% of motorcyclists who were fatally injured in states with all-rider helmet laws were not wearing helmets.

Colorado does, however, require “some form of eye protection” for motorcycle drivers and passengers. CDOT says that the best eye protection comes from a visor on a helmet. Colorado also mandates that motorcycles to be equipped with footrests for passengers, who are required by law to use them.

Here is a short video of an older man riding a motorcycle:


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