Aging Motorcyclists Hit the Road, But at Greater Risk of Injury, Death

This post was authored by Rodd Santomauro and posted to The Eye Opener on April 7th, 2010.

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Yes; Spring is upon us.  With the warmer, sunny weather comes more outdoor activity, including motorcycle riding.  The University of Rochester has just released a new study in regard to a noticeable increase in motorcycle injuries in the older population .  This study was the subject of a recent article, as published on the University’s website.  The study also details why older riders are injured more severely in motorcycle mishaps:

The increase in injury severity for older riders may be related to the reduced capacity to withstand injury as the body ages. Age-related changes, such as decreases in bone strength and brain size, may make older riders more susceptible to injury. Other factors associated with aging, such as impaired vision, delayed reaction time, and altered balance contribute to motorcycle crashes in this population, explaining in part the researchers’ finding that older riders crashed more often as a result of loss of control than younger riders.    

The figures regarding the increase in severity of injuries were compared to the younger population.  A short summary of those findings were listed in the article:

Between 1996 and 2005, researchers found the average age of motorcyclists involved in crashes increased from approximately 34 to 39 years, and the proportion of injured riders above the age of 40 increased from around 28 percent to close to 50 percent. Of all injured riders included in the study, 50- to 59-year-olds represented the fastest growing group, while 20- to 29-year-olds were the most rapidly declining.

The article also details the unfortunate use of alcohol by motorcycle riders, and the fact that intoxicated riders are less likely to wear a helmet.  The combination of alcohol and the lack of a helmet may prove to be a deadly combination:

The younger and older riders did have two things in common: helmet use and alcohol use. Overall helmet use was around 73 percent for both groups, and alcohol use was seen in approximately one third of injured motorcyclists, with no significant difference between the older and younger riders.

Alcohol use and helmet use have been linked in prior reports, with intoxicated drivers less likely to be wearing a helmet and therefore at greater risk for injury and death. It is not surprising that the researchers at the University of Rochester found that riders who tested positive for alcohol use were two-and-a-half times more likely to not be wearing a helmet at the time of injury. Despite abundant evidence that helmets reduce mortality, brain injury, length of hospital stay and economic burden, only 20 states have universal helmet laws.

The complete study can be found in the March 2010 issue of The American Surgeon.

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