By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) — About 67 million people ride bicycles in the United States, but a new study finds that most don’t wear helmets, putting them at risk for serious injury.

Wearing a bicycle helmet can significantly reduce the risk of brain damage and death but less than half of children and adults in the US report wearing one while riding.

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In this study, researchers at the Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles looked at data on more than 70,000 cyclists who suffered head or neck injuries. They found that only 22 percent or about 1 in 5 were wearing helmets at the time of the injury.

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Men were less likely to wear them than women, only 12 percent of kids under 17 had been wearing a helmet, and blacks and Hispanics were even less likely to have been using one.

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Experts say there should be greater efforts to educate the public on the importance of bike helmets, with a particular focus among minority groups.

Dr. Mallika Marshall