Just days ago, a man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the summer 2011 motorcycle crash in Fairhope that claimed the life of a 59-year-old Tennessee man. The rider died at the scene, and authorities later determined the driver of the other vehicle had consumed marijuana shortly before the crash.
Tragic as such incidents are, our Alabama motorcycle injury attorneys understand they are likely to become more common, per a new study by researchers at Brown University in Rhode Island, published in this month’s edition of the Injury Prevention journal.
For starters, the Baby Boomer generation has a great affinity for motorcycles, and they show no sign of giving up those two wheels, even as they continue riding into their 60s and beyond. The researchers discovered that in 1990, roughly 10 percent of all motorcycle riders were over the age of 50. As of 2003, that figure had more than doubled to about 25 percent.
It has only increased from there.
And, like older athletes who are more likely than their younger counterparts to suffer injuries, so too are older riders more likely to be injured.
The study found that between 2001 and 2008, some 1.5 million motorcycle riders were rushed to hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. Of those, about 85 percent were male and the majority were younger than 39 – suggesting, as we well know, that younger riders tend to be less cautious.
However, the injury rate has shot up among riders over the age of 60 in recent years. When the severity of injuries was analyzed, older riders were found to be far worse off. Over-60 riders were three times more likely to be hospitalized, 2.5 times more likely to suffer a severe injury and far more likely to suffer internal injuries (most often severe brain injuries).
The researchers didn’t look at helmet use, but we do know that helmet use overall has been found to significantly reduce traumatic brain injuries among riders.
Older riders face a specific set of unique challenges, including less altered balance, delayed reaction time, worsened vision and bodies that were simply less resilient in the event of a crash. They were also more likely to have a preexisting health condition that could potentially contribute either directly to the crash or their ability to recover from it.
Those who conducted the study didn’t say the results necessarily mandate that older riders need to put their bikes up for sale. However, there was a strong indication that older riders do need to be aware of the fact that they are at higher injury risk if they do crash.
Researchers suggested that older riders may benefit from donning chest protection gear, as well as helmets. It won’t stop drunk or careless drivers from taking up space on the road, but it can improve your chances of survival in case of a crash.
Older motorcycle riders more likely to get badly hurt, Feb. 6, 2013, By Kim Painter, USA Today