Death On Two Wheels
9:26 am
Mon December 3, 2012

Why Nostalgia Can Be Fatal For Old Bikers

Motorcycle deaths are on the rise in Florida. And within that finding is another story: older bikers  dying in increasing numbers.

Living To Ride: Some retired bikers can't resist the call of the road.
Living To Ride: Some retired bikers can't resist the call of the road.
Credit From the movie "Waking Ned Devine"

University researchers say riding motorcycles is a popular hobby for retired Baby Boomers, many of whom rode when they were younger. But now, according to the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida in Tampa, their reflexes, eyesight and overall bike skills have eroded, and some of them are no longer safe on the road.

The center's Chanyoung Lee said it’s not clear that the fatalities among older motorcyclists are driving the overall numbers higher. Those numbers are getting higher, but the Sun Sentinel reports they have been up and down:

Between 2005 and 2007, bikers 45 to 54 accounted for 17.8 percent of all motorcycle deaths. Between 2009 and 2011, they made up 19.9 percent of motorcycle deaths.

Motorcycle riders 55 to 64 accounted for 10.3 percent of motorcycle deaths between 2005 and 2007. But between 2009 and 2011, they made up 16.6 percent of motorcycle fatalities.

Yet, young riders aged 25 to 34 saw their proportion of deaths decline from 22.5 percent between 2005 and 2007 to 21.7 percent between 2009 and 2011.

And riders aged 35 to 44 went from 20.3 percent of motorcycle deaths to 16.2 percent.

The county-by-county fatality statistics are also kind of trend-defying, says the Florida Department of Highway Safety an Motor Vehicles.

In Broward, 38 people died on their bikes last year, an 80 percent increase since 2010. But Palm Beach County biker fatalities declined from 23 to 19 in the same period and deaths in Miami-Dade increased from 30 to 35.

Why are these old guys getting on motorcycles? The studies suggest many are nostalgic for the carefree days before marriage and kids.

Another name for that, says Ray Vega, a motorcycle instructor with the Safety Council of Palm Beach County, is mid-life crisis.