Increasing numbers of baby boomers are channeling Dennis Hopper – the freewheeling biker in the iconic ‘60s film Easy Rider – and taking to the roads on motorcycles.

In California, Department of Motor Vehicles stats show that baby boomers make up 56 percent of nearly 1.4 million Californians licensed to operate motorcycles, while only 30 percent of Class M licenses are held by people ages 16 through 40. Read More.

Most motorcyclists describe the pastime as liberating and exhilarating – but there are serious dangers when hurtling down the highway with minimal protection.
The good news? The overall number of motorcycle injuries and deaths declined slightly in 2013 and 2014.  Yet according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatal accidents among older riders continues to surge. In 1982, riders 50 and older comprised three percent of motorcycle fatalities, by 1997 that number had soared to 13 percent. And in 2014 that number reached 36 percent. Read More.
Older cyclists are also more likely to be seriously inured in crashes than their younger counterparts. According to a study published in Consumer Reports, while younger riders – aged 20 to 39 – were in far more accidents from 2001 to 2008 (921,229 incidents) than the oldest age group (65,660), those aged 60 and over were found to be much more likely to be severely injured.
Studies show that older riders experience more severe injuries due to the physiological effects of the aging process. Simply put: slower reflexes, less body strength, diminished vision – all can have a negative impact on motorcycle riding prowess.

Older Motorcycle Riders Risk Greater Injuries

To help ensure safety amongst riders of all ages,  the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has compiled the following general tips for drivers:

  • Though a motorcycle is a small vehicle, its operator still has all the rights of the road as any other motorist. Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.
  • Always signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful: motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
  • Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic, especially at intersections.
  • Always allow more follow distance – three to four seconds – when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never drive distracted or impaired.

Motorcyclists can increase their safety by following these steps:

  • Wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
  • Obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed.
  • Use hand and turn signals at every lane change or turn.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Ride in the middle of the lane where you will be more visible to drivers.
  • Never ride distracted or impaired.

For more information on motorcycle safety, visit www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Motorcycles.

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