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Basem Wasef

Study Reveals Boomers at Greater Risk on Motorcycles

By April 19, 2010

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Boomer Motorcycle Safety
Boomers have long enjoyed the joys of motorcycling, but a new study suggests they can also be exposed to a world of hurt when it comes to two-wheeled transportation.

According to a University of Rochester Medical Center study (entitled "The Aging Road Warrior"), riders above the age of 40 suffer greater injury severity, longer hospital or intensive care unit stays, and higher mortality rates; based on the severity of the original injury, riders over 40 are also 1.5 to 2 times more likely to die from their injuries. During the duration of the study, the proportion of injured riders above 40 increased from 28 percent to nearly 50 percent. 50 to 59 year-olds were the fastest growing group to sustain injuries.

The study-- which tracked over 61,000 motorcyclists between 1996 and 2005-- notes that the average age of motorcyclists steadily rose during that period, but that older riders sustained a significantly higher proportion of severe chest and head injuries, while injury patterns (predominantly extremity fractures) remained stable. Incidentally, older and younger riders shared helmet and alcohol usage patterns in common; roughly 73 percent of both groups tended to wear helmets, while alcohol usage played a part in about one third of accidents.

Boomers-- not to mention enthusiasts of all ages-- owe it to themselves to brush up on their skills by taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, some of which are geared specifically towards experienced riders. But these findings also suggest it might be worthwhile for the MSF to pursue classes specifically geared towards older riders, a sentiment echoed by Dr. Mark Gestring, who co-authored the study: "We are looking at the development of prevention programs targeting motorcycle safety for older individuals, possibly in partnership with local motorcycle clubs and other interested groups."

Source: Guy Kawasaki's Twitter Feed, Futurity.org


Photo © Kevin Jordan; Click to enlarge

April 19, 2010 at 10:19 am
(1) Pete says:

Hi Basem,
I haven’t had time to read the report yet…but I’ve read a number of them prior to this one to see what the stats are on guys my age.
Does it touch on the fact that: A fairly significant % of boomers who are being injured are those who rode when they were kids, gave it up for 25 years, and jumped back on a bike and figured they ‘still had it’?
I’m one of those – apparently few – boomers who never got off a bike. I’ve ridden full time since I started when I was 16 and they’ll pry my bike out……you know how it goes.
That, along with a healthy does of luck has kept me out of trouble. A few scrapes & bruises, but no broken bones.
It’s very dismaying to see alcohol still plays a 30% role in injuries. That hasn’t changed one iota in 40 years! I refuse to use the term ‘accident’, if booze is involved.
These sorts of stats are also another good excuse for INS companies to rape & pillage an entire group instead of looking at the individual.
Guys…some free advice for what it’s worth…If you’re getting back on a bike after a long absence, TAKE A COURSE! Things have changed a lot since you last rode
1 – Bikes have a lot more power
2 – Better brakes
3 – Better tires
4 – A lot more car divers, and they’re a lot dumber now.

April 19, 2010 at 12:46 pm
(2) Sheriff Joe says:

There are also more drivers who are distracted by various tech devices, attention spans,and high stress levels. As a motorcyclist, you have to weigh the odds and choose the best ones if given a choice. Always expect the unexpected!

April 19, 2010 at 5:53 pm
(3) Joe says:

I think Pete is right on with this one, a lot of the 40+ crowd haven’t ridden in 20+ yrs (most of the time it’s because they stopped riding to raise a family) and now are getting back into it. Rider courses for this type of rider would help a lot I think.

April 19, 2010 at 11:14 pm
(4) Steve in GA says:

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, rider training courses do NOT reduce crashes. The IIHS study says that states that have mandatory training for motorcycle licenses have crash rates about equal to states that do not. Your guess is as good as mine as to why rider training does not keep you safer.

Here is the IIHS website: http://www.iihs.org/news/rss/pr033110.html

The study goes on to say that helmets and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are two things that DO help motorcyclists. States that have helmet laws have lower motorcycle injury rates, and ABS equipped motorcycles are much less likely to be involved in injury crashes.

As for boomers getting injured more severely than younger riders, that doesn’t seem like news to me. All other things being equal, who is more likely to be hurt worse when a bike broadsides Grandma’s Grand Marquis after she turns into the bike’s path and sends the rider flying: a 20 year-old or a 60 year-old? Sixty year-olds don’t bounce off asphalt very gracefully.

April 20, 2010 at 9:32 am
(5) Pete says:

The IIHS report was discussed on Basems blog quite recently. While it is definitely bizarre, I can’t help but wonder if the lack of impact (pardon the pun) on accident stats is an age thing. How many “I know everything” 17 yr olds take the course just to get the ins break, while more mature new / returning riders might actually try & learn something? One can only hope…
It’s nice to continually see data that supports helmets. Too bad there’s no shortage of morons who think they break necks and impair vision and hearing all the rest of that “don’t infringe on my rights” crap.
ABS being a major savior? I’ve got a bit of a hard time with that one. As soon as we start relying on technology & electronics to save our axxes, skill level dumbs down.
Honda has a brilliant ABS system on the RR’s, but there’s still no substitute for making sure the brain is engaged.
Is my age showing? Maybe, but I think learning how to ride and learning how to use brakes is the first step.
Your point about bouncing less gracefully the older you get is bang on…it doesn’t hurt any more than it did when you were 20, but it sure hurts for longer!

April 21, 2010 at 10:25 am
(6) Decio says:

Solution= Drive more instead of only at weekends,
less speed during urbans passages, speed up in the velocity in highways where there s no danger, be cautious with the other guys.
You don t need to show to others that you are the guy…the important is YOU.

April 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm
(7) Peter says:

We love riding and rationalize a lot of things to do so. I think much of these readers are doing that. I am 65 and have thinning bones and lots of aches and pains from joints and such. I know I am not 16! I have a torn rotator cuff, umbilical hernia and all sorts of aging phenomena that is not unique amounst older riders. I often wrestle with those thoughts expressed in these studies and when I am riding along on my cruiser in a position that feels good, I know I, and all the other old farts around me are playing Russian Roulette. That if I wipe out I’m going to end up as a “big skin bag filled with bone dust”.
Someone suggested it’s because we were away from riding to raise a family. Yes I did, but I’ve been back in the saddle year-round for 7 years now, so that’s no arguement for the fact that I am fragile like any other old guy. Even ones that never stopped riding. Most crashes are caused by autos with bad drivers and no skill can prevent what often happens.
It comes done to a conscious decision. Do we ride and gamble our lives and well-being. Do we risk leaving our wives as widows or having a vegetable for a partner? Do we leave our grandkids saddened that ol’ Grandpa is gone?
I think this was a good article and and we need to take stock and see if our riding is selfish and foolish and are we prepared to face the consequences if we do survive and spend our “Golden Years” in unnecessary suffering.

April 21, 2010 at 2:28 pm
(8) Hooger158 says:

I found another article as well that goes into a bit more detail http://seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Aging/2010/20100405-AgingMororcyclists.htm One thing that stuck out is that “loss of control” is a major factor. I wonder if it doesn’t also have to do with decreasing strength with age coupled with increased bike weight. I doubt there are that many 25 year olds pushing a 900 pound Electra Glide due to the price.

April 21, 2010 at 2:50 pm
(9) Pete says:

Again very dismaying to see yet another report that shows booze related to a third of bike crashes. That is stupidity on a level that defies comprehension!
Do older riders bend and break easier?…of course. What to do about it? Everything you can…exercise, don’t drink and ride, take care of yourself, dress properly (check the photo at the top of the article…how well will he fair when he eats it?)
Do we give up doing what we’ve loved for most of our lives? Might as well stop using the shower, driving a car, going for walks, climbing stairs…
I know it’ll end someday, but as far as I’m concerned (at 57) I’m in for the long haul!

April 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm
(10) Peter says:

Slipping in the shower is a far cry from hitting the pavement at 60mph plus a few other assorted things, like curbs, cars, trees and lamposts. A bike crash is a brutal assault on our bodies that a helmet and a few pads won’t help. Racers wear heavy duty outfits, but the course is groomed without any obstacles. (Except the Isle of Man, etc). Being in good condion is relative to our age. Old guys are still more fragile and slow to heal, and even if you don’t drink, the clown in the car or truck might be stoned out of his gourd!

April 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm
(11) Pete says:

All very valid points and after 40 + years riding I’m intimately familiar with curbs, trees & lamp posts. I spent a few years on race tracks as well.
I can honestly say never had the pleasure of car vs flesh & blood interaction – long on luck!
I harbor no illusions about falling off now vs 20 years old, but I am prepared to do everything I can to prevent it, and mitigate the results. Sounds like you’re of similar mind.
Good luck & stay safe!

April 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm
(12) Graham says:


Your comment of;

“Most crashes are caused by autos with bad drivers and no skill can prevent what often happens.”

Is clearly indicitave of the common “I’m a good rider, it’s the CAR drivers that are at fault” attitude that is simply incorrect. Motorcyclists are found legally at fault in just over half of the accidents they are involved in, and even in the accidents where the other driver made the legal error, there likely WAS something the rider could have done beforehand to reduce or eliminate that risk!

I recommend you take a course like the one I teach to find out just how to do that.

April 21, 2010 at 7:58 pm
(13) scott says:

I agree with Pete. Im 55 years old and have ridden motorcycles since age 30. I stopped for 10 years and hopped back in the saddle. I have taken about 4-5 safety courses, sure the ins discount helps, but how can you compare that to really learning about life saving advice and protocols. I still see those crazy sport rocket motorcycles doing things I cant believe. Some of them, not all are an absolute menace to the rest of us, not to mention our reputation and image. I dont want to sound macabre or depressing, but if I have to go this way, let it be. It sure beats dying of some indignant dreaded disease in a hospital where nobody could care less, outside of your family. I certainly prefer not to go that way, but I love my motorcycle and I am not giving it up until the good Lord tells me so. I love anyway, to see geriatric riders who really love their bikes. It warms my heart. Ride safe, be considerate and keep scanning the road ahead. I hope you all keep riding safely, and till a ripe old age. God bless. Scott

April 22, 2010 at 12:21 am
(14) Peter says:

Hi Graham, I may not have been clear on my comment. I am skilled and based that comment on all the near misses I’ve witnessed that have been stupid car drivers. Especially bad these days with cellphones. It was my alertness that saved me.
“no skill can prevent what happens” What I meant by this was simply that if you get blind-sided, or run into an impossible escape scenario, then what happens is what happens, and if you are old the consequence will be harsher than for a younger body.
I personally don’t drink, or ride if I’m not feeling 100% I don’t go over the speed limits, nor take corners too fast. I am an alert and conservative rider, but know in a very realistic way that we are all vulnerable and can be brought down. To think otherwise would be foolish or arogant.

April 22, 2010 at 10:25 pm
(15) Eric Trow says:

This is particularly interesting discussion. To the primary point about injury to us old farts, I agree that I would no doubt experience greater injury and have longer recovery if involved in a close encounter of the automotive kind. More reason to avoid danger through strategic riding and to wear armored riding gear, no? I’m a huge advocate of on-street training. Our Stayin’ Safe on-street advanced rider training program (originally developed by Lawrence Grodsky in 1993) is attended by a great many “Boomer” riders who sign up to improve their visual and strategic riding skills while enhancing their control skills. Personally, I enjoy working with older riders because they tend to recognize their mortality and have often reached a point in their lives when they recognize the value of training (at least the ones we see). Most have taken basic and experienced rider courses from the MSF and found them to be valuable. What they find particularly valuable about programs such as ours is the practical application of strategies and skills in real-world riding environments at real-world riding speeds (which simply can’t be simulated in a parking lot course) while gaining real-time coaching from skilled instructors. Although these riders come into our program having often taken multiple parking-lot or track-based schools, we still see a great number of critical skills absent when they begin our program. One of the greatest rewards for us is seeing dramatic transformations in an experienced rider’s traffic management, cornering and braking skills throughout the program. We strongly believe that well over 90% of crashes — motorcycle and otherwise — are preventable with strong, practical knowledge of how to read the environment and how to formulate a plan to avoid surprises/conflict in the first place. In my view (and, based on the feedback of riders), there’s simply no substitute for real-world training to improve a rider’s safety margin. It has worked for years in Europe. With all of this said, I admit that I’m referring to riders who have recognized the value of training. There are countless other riders who believe that crashing is an inevitable part of riding and that safety is primarily a matter of luck. I simply don’t believe that.

April 23, 2010 at 2:46 am
(16) Peter says:

I disagree that there is few unavoidable situations. Sometimes there is no way out. A very experienced life-long rider of 69 was in a left turn lane awaiting the chance to make his turn on his Road King. A speeding van came up the center lane and flew into the left turn lane and knocked him across the sreet into a telephone pole with his helmeted head. He died in the arms of the speeder.
He wouldn’t have seen the guy coming until he got into his short left turn cut-out. Even if he saw him last minute come into that lane, he had a median one side and a row of cars on the other and cars coming toward him so he couldn’t have turned.
We can armchair all the shouda woulda’s, but in that fraction of time, sometimes it just happens.

April 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm
(17) Pete says:

As tragic as that is…that sounds like one of the “few”. I am in agreement that the vast majority can be avoided and/or mitigated with some defensive riding and keeping your eyes open. Fighter pilots call it ‘situational awareness’, and while we’re not quite as likely to take a Sidewinder up the tailpipe, situational awareness is HUGE. 99% of the time, we make our own luck…good & bad.
The other 1%? …A friend of mine had an epileptic seizure on his bike many years ago…he had no idea he was epileptic.

April 23, 2010 at 10:02 pm
(18) Peter says:

What are your feelings on these things and how will you feel about riding with a 65 year old body? :-)

April 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm
(19) Basem Wasef - Motorcycles Guide says:


If I’m fortunate enough to live a long time, then– God willing– I’ll be riding through my senior years, and that will require staying on my game and not getting lax about paying attention on the road, as well as taking periodic refresher safety courses.

I started a conversation in the forum where I mention that pretty much every rider, regardless of age, owes it to themselves to keep in the best shape possible (mentally, physically, and training-wise) in order to be able to stay riding safely; after all, isn’t it easier to avoid an accident than to deal with the aftermath?


April 24, 2010 at 11:37 am
(20) Rider says:

Pete, very good and true. I just hit sixty years of age. Was away from motorcycles for years. I had some rental property –sold it, stopped in the Honda dealer. Was looking and bought a Honda Shadow Spirit 750. I took the motorcycle safety class. I joined the Goldwing Club two years ago–THEY PUSH SAFTY. I now have a Yamaha Royal Star Venture and a Goldwing. Love both Bikes. I wear safety gear and Helmet—ALWAYS.
I have friends who ride H.D.`s who drink and ride. This is a very DUMB thing to do. Bar to Bar and home as they call it.
The thing to watch for is to me is the young girs and women on Cell phones—Ride safe

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