There is a troubling rise in baby boomer motorcycle deaths, as more Americans aged 55 to 64 are hitting the road. On average, a dozen people die in motorcycle accidents each day in the U.S., and more than 16% of those fatalities are among boomers. Motorcycle crash lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm explore this new trend and what can be done to combat it.
One of these victims, a 60-year-old Harley-Davidson rider, was commuting to work in early November 2014 when he was cut off by a Ford Mustang. His Harley clipped the back end of the Mustang, sending the motorcyclist off the Harley and onto pavement. The 60-year-old, a father of six, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
His widow told reporters that he was a very careful rider, always wearing a helmet and reflective jackets. The Mustang driver was ultimately charged with failure to yield. Baby boomers may be less reckless while riding, but experts believe they may be more vulnerable to serious injury and death than younger motorcyclists. Older riders may be suffering from decreasing vision, slower reflexes, and other consequences of aging that render their bodies more fragile.
Some companies in the motorcycle industry are taking steps to address the safety needs of aging riders: Polaris Industries, for example, is creating a program that will offer refresher courses to veteran riders. This may be quite important, as many baby boomers gave up their motorcycles when they started having children, and now that their children are adults, they are able to take up motorcycling once again.
Motorcycles have changed significantly in the last few decades, however. They are bigger, more complex, and have changed technologically. Boomers cannot merely pick up where they left off – the Harley-Davidson engines made now are more than double the size than those manufactured in the 1960s.
A 50-year-old man in Ohio, Randall Dowell, took up riding again after a long period away from motorcycles. In April 2013, a car swerved into his lane and hit him, causing the lower part of his left leg to be amputated along with serious injuries to his wrist and knee. He was going just 25 miles an hour, and was wearing a helmet. He stated that he believes his reflexes were much slower than they used to be, and recovery has been much slower as well.
One of the most significant ways to make a motorcycle safer is to include anti-lock brakes, which are optional on nearly all motorcycles. Helmet laws should also be made mandatory, though more than 30 states have no such law.
Officials in many states are recognizing this new trend among baby boomers – in Minnesotaat least 32 boomers have died so far this year in motorcycle accidents. About half of those accidents were caused by riders veering off sharp curves, which indicates that many riders are failing to train properly. The Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center has had to cancel some of its classes due to low registration.
Many boomers proclaim that motorcycling makes them feel younger, reminding them of their youths, or getting into it because many of their friends have taken it up. Only six states require all new riders to take safety courses, and though these may help in reducing crashes overall, helmets are by far the most important tool to prevent death.
Helmets cut the risk of motorcycle deaths by about 37%, according to federal reports. In Minnesota, two-thirds of motorcyclists who died in 2013 were not wearing helmets. Somewhat surprisingly, riders in their 40s were least likely to report wearing helmets, yet riders in their 30s and 60s were most likely.
The motorcycle injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm recommend that older riders take several precautions before returning to motorcycling: wear highly-visible clothing and helmets, repeat safety courses, and consider other options instead of full-sized bikes. If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, contact our firm immediately. We provide free legal consultations to concerned parties nationwide, and never charge any attorneys’ fees unless we win you a verdict or settlement.