Motorcycles and 40-plus ridersWritten by Stephen Roberts | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently returned from a trip to Paris and Barcelona where I was struck by the large number of motorcycles and scooters. Motorcyclists were mixing easily with cars, trucks and busses. It is obvious this type of transportation is much more a part of daily European life than it is in the United States.
In 2005 in the United States, 4,315 motorcyclists died and between 76,000 and 80,000 were injured. In Ohio, there were 134 deaths reported due to motorcycle accidents. This represents an overall 8 percent increase in fatalities over 2004.
Older riders are primarily responsible for an increasing number of deaths and injuries. In the last decade, fatalities have increased almost 250 percent in the over 40 group and more than 350 percent in riders over 50. Why would this be?
It turns out many older riders are starting to ride again without taking a refresher course after being away from the activity for many years. They are relying on skills they had when they were much younger.
There is also the issue of aging bodies not being what they used to be. Getting older most often means poorer eyesight, hearing and reflexes. Another problem older riders face is that their bodies are more fragile than those of their younger counterparts. If accidents occur, younger bodies are more likely to recover.
Older riders also buy bigger, more expensive bikes they may not be able to handle safely.
Research appears to indicate that engine size is related to fatal crashes. Dealers report some motorcyclists are crashing their big new motorcycles before riding them off the lot. How can motorcyclists protect themselves?
Wear a helmet. I know we like freedom and don’t like to be told to wear them, but they do save lives. Helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing death. This means if the unhelmeted Ohio riders who died in 2005 had been wearing helmets, 36 would be alive today.
Another way motorcyclists can protect themselves is to become more visible to the driving public. A New Zealand study discovered that reflective clothing decreased the risk of crashes by 37 percent, wearing a white helmet as opposed to black decreased risk by 24 percent.
Some safety experts recommend high beams should be turned on during the day and the lights should be aimed high enough so that automobile drivers are aware of them. Other ways that riders can protect themselves: avoid alcohol and take lessons.
To take lessons locally, call (419) 473-3107 or (419) 825-5589. The training site is at 4955 Seaman Road in Oregon.
Stephen Roberts is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health & Rehabilitative Services at UT.