Friday, Oct. 17, 2003 | 11:13 a.m.
Many more Nevadans age 50 and older are wearing helmets when riding bicycles, but many teenagers still think it's not cool to put a piece of hard plastic between their heads and the concrete.
Those are some of the findings of the third annual Statewide Bicycle Helmet Usage Survey for the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety. The survey done by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Transportation Research Center.
The survey found that the over-50 age group this year had the highest usage rate, 39.8 percent, up significantly from 5.6 percent just one year ago. The survey also found that of that group, 70.6 percent of women wore helmets compared with 32.4 percent of men.
However, the 10-18 age group -- kids who ride their bikes to school and otherwise use two-wheelers as their main mode of self-transportation -- had the lowest helmet use rate, 16.7 percent. Still, officials find it encouraging that the rate was up from 13.5 percent a year ago.
Overall, helmet use was up 56.25 percent for all age groups, from 19.2 percent in 2002 to 30 percent this year, according to the survey that consisted of observations of 1,000 bicyclists, 500 in Northern Nevada and 500 in Southern Nevada.
"The findings are very encouraging, but the part about the kids is discouraging," said Maggie Saunders, safety coordinator for the UNLV Transportation Research Center.
"There are a number of factors for this -- peer pressure, they don't want to mess up their hair. Also, kids are not as aware of their mortality. They don't understand how fragile the body can be."
Saunders said she hopes events like Saturday's Las Vegas Century bicycle races, starting 7 a.m. at the Regional Transportation Commission building at 500 Grand Central Parkway, will help get the message across to the many kids among the several hundred people expected to participate.
"We will have a bike rodeo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to teach children about Nevada's traffic laws and why they should wear helmet," Saunders said, noting that helmet use also is stressed at safety seminars and school assemblies.
The helmet survey found that all age groups had increased helmet use. Among riders under age 10, 32 percent were wearing helmets in this year's survey, up from the previous year's 33.1 percent. In the 18-50 age group, 34.5 percent of bicyclists were wearing helmets compared with 20.2 percent in 2002.
The survey also found: