Sunday, May 06, 2007
GROWING OLD AGAINST MY WILL--AND RIDING
1. Keep a greater following distance, perhaps three seconds or more. Some authorities recommend up to a six-second interval.
2. Avoid complicated and congested roads and intersections. “Input overload” is a phrase often used to describe the presence of too much information to be able to process accurately. A good choice is to pick a route that contains less complicated roadways with less traffic flow and fewer turns.
3. Allow larger gaps when moving into a stream of traffic. Selecting a safe gap when passing another vehicle or crossing or turning at an intersection is an important decision for smoothly blending with others.
4. Make a point to check side-to-side at intersections. It is a wise motorcyclist that recognizes that eye movement and muscle movement (head and neck muscles in particular) become more difficult with age. A rider should take an extra moment to double-check cross traffic to get a good look.
5. Keep making good blind-spot checks. Traffic research shows that older drivers don’t check blind spots as well as younger drivers. An extra moment to ensure nothing is hiding in a blind spot may help reduce risk.
6. Have a passenger help you S.E.E. Passengers can be an additional set of eyes to help identify hazards and assess risk.
7. Keep windshield, helmet face shield and eyeglass lenses clean. Dirt and grime on a rider’s “window to the world” may adversely affect quick and accurate perception of factors such as traffic control devices, road markings, debris and other traffic movement.
8. Avoid tinted lenses at night. Any tint lessens the light available to the eyes and makes seeing well at night more difficult.
9. Wear sunglasses when glare is a problem. During daytime glare, good polarized sunglasses may reduce the effects of glare significantly and make identifying a traffic hazard easier.
10. Adjust mirrors to avoid glare from following vehicles. Sometimes a slight mirror adjustment may reduce the distracting effects of traffic behind you and still provide the perception necessary to identify hazards to the rear.
11. Keep the headlight(s) clean and properly adjusted. During routine maintenance, be sure the headlight is aimed correctly. Refer to your owner’s manual for adjustment information.
12. Avoid glasses with wide frames or heavy temples. Eyeglasses or sunglasses may be constructed in a way that creates a blind spot. Be sure the frames do not inhibit side vision or create difficulty in seeing the entire field of vision.
13. Avoid being in a hurry. It is unwise to make up for lost time by riding aggressively. Leaving a little early will result in a more relaxed, enjoyable ride and create an opportunity for choosing greater time and space safety margins.
14. Remember that the average age of the driving population is increasing, and you are sharing the road with others who may be experiencing the effects of aging on their operation of a motor vehicle. Keeping a greater safety margin is a wise choice.
15. Choose a motorcycle with large dials and easy-to-read symbols. Brightly illuminated gauges may be helpful for riding at night.
16. Choose a motorcycle that fits well and doesn’t cause muscles to strain because of an unusual seating position or because the controls are difficult to operate. How a motorcycle fits its rider may affect overall handling and performance at both low speeds and at higher speeds.
17. Follow manufacturer recommendations in the owner’s manual. Good maintenance will keep your motorcycle operating like new.
18. Wear protective gear. The muscles and bones are more prone to injury and the time for healing is often extended for an older person. Using extra body armor may help mitigate injury should a fall occur.
19. Renew skills often by completing a Motorcycle Safety Foundation ERC Suite Skills Plus RiderCourseSM. The half-day of practice is always fun and helps keep riding skills fresh.
20. Enroll in the AARP Driver Safety Program. (AARP is the American Association of Retired Persons.) It is the nation’s first and largest classroom driver improvement course specially designed for motorists age 50 and older. (It is eight hours in length and costs $10. Insurance discounts may apply. Take the quiz on the AARP website at www.aarp.org under the topic of “Driver Safety.”) Also, AAA offers a course for older drivers called “Safe Driving for Mature Operators” (contact a local AAA club for details) and the National Safety Council has a course titled “Coaching the Mature Driver” (call 800-621-7619 for information). See helpful resources below.
21. Separate alcohol and other impairing substances and conditions from riding. Over-the-counter and prescription medications could cause impairment. And don’t forget the possibility of synergistic impairment that occurs when drugs are used in combination.
Physical Health and Fitness
22. Have annual eye checkups. This is a good recommendation for anyone over the age of 35.
23. If 60 or older, be sure your eye doctor checks annually for cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other conditions associated with aging.
24. Have annual medical checkups. Being physically fit and in good health helps ensure the safest, most enjoyable ride possible.
25. Keep an exercise regimen to enhance flexibility, strength and endurance. Fitness is important at any age. Maintain good muscle tone and flexibility to improve the enjoyment of motorcycling.
26. Ask a significant other if they notice changes that might affect safety on a motorcycle. Motorcycle operation is a complicated perceptual-motor skill, meaning it is a skill of the eyes and mind as well as the hands and feet. Identifying deterioration or weaknesses in other areas of normal living that require perceptual-motor skill, whether in the workshop, in the yard, or in the kitchen, should be used as clues that operating a motorcycle safely could also be affected.
27. If/when the time comes to retire from motorcycling, buy a sporty convertible.
Boomers, motorcycles don’t seem to mix
By Gary S. Mogel
May 7, 2007
NEW YORK — The thrill of the open road is proving hazardous to some baby boomers.Allstate Corp. last month issued safety tips for boomers who drive motorcycles. Older riders need to take more precautions, because age may erode the balance, coordination and reflexes needed to maneuver motorcycles, according to a statement by the Northbrook, Ill.-based insurer.
People 40 and older accounted for about half the motorcycle-related fatalities in 2005, the last year for which statistics were available, compared with a quarter of fatalities in 1995, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington.
For instance, one of the world’s foremost cat experts, 58-year-old Dr. James Richards, was killed last month while riding his motorcycle — ironically, while trying to avoid a cat on the road. He had been director of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y.
Allstate urges boomers to provide extra space for emergency braking and avoidance, and to make lane changes more gradually. There is also a financial incentive for riding safely: The company offers premium discounts up to 40% for motorcyclists who have had no accidents or traffic violations for five years.