Older Motorcycle Riders Are More Likely to Experience Fatal Accidents

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
December 2, 2019

Powerful motorcycles like Harley-Davidsons are becoming increasingly popular with older riders. The baby boomer generation is increasingly getting on two wheels post-retirement. However, the popularity of bikes with older people comes at a cost. When more mature riders wreck, they are more likely to be seriously injured or killed.

Research finds older riders are not as well equipped as young people to handle a powerful bike. Their bodies are more vulnerable to the trauma associated with a serious motorcycle wreck.

In September, a tragedy in Richmond claimed the lives of three riders in their 40s and 50s. The three were killed when four motorcycles crashed on a ramp to I-95 in Richmond.

Five motorcycles were traveling together onto the ramp at Maury Street to Southbound I-95. Seven people were involved in the crashes. Virginia State Police said excess speed was a likely factor in the deaths.

This was a terrible tragedy. Motorcycles are among the most dangerous vehicles on the road and sometimes older riders struggle to keep powerful bikes under control. Our reflexes slow down with age and one mistake can prove to be fatal. Police said three motorcycles had double riders. All of the victims were wearing helmets.

The victims were a male and female rider and passenger aged 56 and 53 and a 41-year-old woman from Petersburg.

Although the cause of the crash in Richmond is unclear it follows a clear trend. Increasing numbers of older riders are losing their lives in bike crashes.

National statistics show more middle-aged bikers are dying on the roads of America. The Chicago Tribune reported that 80 percent of motorcycle fatalities involved riders 29 years old or younger in 1975. The age group most likely to die in motorcycle wrecks is now 50 and older. This age group accounts for 35% of all deaths states the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the nonprofit highway safety research group the auto insurance companies fund. More than 90% of those killed in 2015 were male.

Why Are Older Motorcycle Riders More Likely to Experience Fatal Accidents?

The experts point to two main reasons why older bikers are more likely to end up as statistics. One of them is the spike associated with the baby boomer generation. About 76 million American residents were born from 1946 to 1964. Inevitably the baby boomer generation will make up a large percentage of the deaths occurring.

Insurance Institute spokesman Russ Rader said the economic upturn has led to a rise in crashes involving all vehicles.  Another reason for the rise in middle-aged biker deaths is people who stopped riding when they were in their 20s to start families began riding again in their 50s or 60s, not realizing their reaction times were not what they once were, safety experts say. They even have a name for riders who get back on their bikes after years off two wheels - retreads.

Research from Brown University found older riders are three times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in accidents.

The study found changes in the human body with age make riding a motorcycle a hazardous undertaking.  The authors wrote:

“As the body ages, bone strength decreases, subcutaneous and visceral fat (organ 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.”

This advice holds true for all types of crash but people on motorcycles face higher levels of trauma given the extreme forces involved in a wreck and the lack of protection compared to a car which has a steel frame.

Talk to a Virginia Wrongful Death Motorcycle Lawyer Over a Deadly Accident

Although motorcyclists can cause fatal accidents by speeding or riding drunk, careless motorists are a leading cause of motorcycle deaths. In Virginia, about 13% of road deaths involve motorcyclists, even though riders only make up about 3% of road users. Few things are as traumatic as the loss or a loved one in a traffic accident. It’s important to hire a veteran lawyer who can fight for your rights in Hampton, Newport News, Richmond, Norfolk or elsewhere, all the way to trial if need be. Call the Smith Law Center at (757) 244-7000.

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