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Survey: Motorcycle Helmet Use Drops; More Women Still Wear Them

LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Motorcycle helmet use has dropped in Michigan to 73 percent since a change in the helmet law last year, according to a survey by the Wayne State University Transportation Group.

That's down from 99.4 percent in 2006.

Michigan ended mandatory universal helmet use in 2012, letting riders opt out under certain circumstances.

"It's not something that is surprising, given the change in the helmet law," said Anne Readett with the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. "So, it's certainly something that we will continue to monitor, along with what's happening with crashes, injuries and fatalities after the change that occurred last year."

Readett said motorcycle helmet use was highest for those riding sport bikes and lowest for riders of choppers and custom bikes.

Female riders and those under 30 and over 60 also wear helmets more frequently, according to the survey.

"We see that women are a little more likely than men (to wear helmets), which is something we also see when we look at safety belt use in vehicles — that women buckle up more frequently than men," Readett said.

Seventy-nine percent of female motorcyclists wear helmets, compared with 70.6 percent of males, the report said. It said the use rate is 76.9 percent for those ages 16-29, 65.5 percent for ages 30-59 and 73.5 percent for ages 60 and older.

Nationwide, 4,612 motorcyclists were killed and about 81,000 injured in 2011, according to the latest figures available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The estimated rate of helmet use nationally was 60 percent in 2012.

The drop in helmet use in Michigan is starting to show up in accident statistics, the researchers said. There were 109 deaths in 2011 and 129 in 2012.

"As preliminary crash statistics from the 2012 riding season show significant increases in fatal and serious injuries, it appears that changes to the helmet use legislation has resulted in more severe injury outcomes," they wrote. "Based upon these findings, continued efforts are warranted to encourage the use of both motorcycle helmets and high-visibility gear."

Readett reminds Michiganders that to ride without a helmet, you have to meet certain criteria: You must be least 21, have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits, and have a motorcycle endorsement.

"Certainly, we recommend that people wear helmets all the time when they're riding a, a motorcycle," Readett  added."Helmets certainly help reduce the likelihood of people incurring head injuries."

MORE: Study: Motorcycle Injuries Worsen With Weaker Helmet Law

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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