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Why boomer motorcyclists face greater danger out on the open road

Recently released figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that 2013 -- the most recent year for which complete data is available -- saw the number of fatal motorcycle accidents drop by 6.4 percent from 2012, continuing the trend in recent years of lower overall fatalities.

As encouraging as these figures are, however, it's important to note that the NHTSA also found that the number of fatal motorcycle crashes involving baby boomers, ages 55 to 64, hit 16.3 percent in 2013. To put this in perspective, consider that this number stood at 9.3 percent in 2003 and less than 3 percent in the early part of the 1990s.

While at least some of this phenomenon can be attributed to the simple fact that this age demographic has become considerably larger over the last few years, safety experts suggest that there are other factors at play.

One factor, they say, is that many baby boomers -- especially men -- sold their motorcycles in their 20s and 30s to settle down and raise a family, but have decided to pick up their hobby once again now that they have more time and money.

Naturally, many of them gravitate towards motorcycles that are much bigger in size than they previously rode, something that together with their rusty riding skills significantly elevates their chances of a serious or deadly crash.

"Just because you rode 20 years ago doesn't mean you can pick it up where you left off," said one motorcycle safety advocate.

According to experts, another contributing factor to the spike in fatal motorcycle accidents among both recently reinitiated and long-time boomer riders alike is that even though they are more prone to safe driving practices, their reflexes and vision have diminished considerably. Furthermore, their bodies are also more likely to sustain serious trauma in wrecks than their younger counterparts.

Fortunately, many boomer riders are becoming increasingly aware of these risks and their own limitations, deciding to take refresher courses, purchase a safer three-wheel motorcycle or even give up riding altogether.        

It's important to remember that no matter your age, you do have rights and you do have options if the recklessness of another took the life of a loved one or caused you serious personal injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Uneasy rider: Boomer deaths in motorcycle crashes rise," James Hagerty, Dec. 21, 2014

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