Part of the reason motorcycle deaths have been going up disproportionately among older riders is the changing demographics of bike buyers and riders. Surveys show motorcycle owners increasingly aren't young. They're older, affluent professionals. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, the typical U.S. bike owner is now about 38 years old, earns $44,250, is married, and has a professional, managerial, or technical job.
This compares with the typical owner in 1980, who was a 24 year-old earning $17,500. So more and more riders don't hold up to the traditional stereotype of the biker as a young rabble-rouser.
"They're not the guys you picture with the three-foot ZZ Top beards who haven't showered in three weeks," says Trey Bostick of Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, Virginia.
People often assume older motorcyclists are safer than younger riders, but the growing number of cyclists 40 and older who get killed in crashes shows that mature riders aren't immune from the obvious hazards of cycling. "No matter how old they are, motorcyclists are at higher risk of injury compared with almost anyone else who's using the road," says Allan Williams, the Institute's chief scientist.