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Release Date: 01/05/2009

Risk Survey: 58 Percent of Cyclists Never Wear a Helmet, 27 Percent Never Use Sunscreen

CR’s survey reveals how often Americans take risks

CR February '09 Cover YONKERS, NY — Some 58 percent of Americans never wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, 70 percent never wear hearing protection when using a gas lawn mower or leaf blower, and 27 percent never use sunscreen when they’re in the sun for a long time, according to a nationally representative poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The poll reveals what behaviors Americans do which they probably shouldn’t including:  drive at least 10 mph over the speed limit on highways (25 percent often, 44 percent occasionally), talk on a cell phone (no hands-free device) while driving, (17 percent often, 36 percent occasionally) and leave items on the stairs at home (15 percent often, 22 percent occasionally).

The poll also reveals what behaviors Americans don’t do that they probably should including: read warnings that come with a prescription (9 percent never do), and unplug the toaster/toaster oven when not in use (50 percent never do).

The full report on how often Americans take risks is available in the February 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, on sale January 6 and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

The results are revealing because those behaviors can cause real harm, according to safety experts at Consumer Reports and elsewhere. Ninety-two percent of bicyclists killed in 2007 reportedly weren’t wearing a helmet, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which notes that helmet use has been estimated to reduce risk of head injury by 85 percent.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 1 million new cases of basal and squamous cell cancers were expected to be diagnosed in 2008. And according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, prolonged exposure to noise at or above 85 decibels (emitted by many mowers) can cause gradual hearing loss.

Male and female poll respondents didn’t act much differently except when it came to wearing sunscreen (women did more often) and reading the info sheet for medicine (ditto). Behavior of younger respondents varied most when they were on the road. Respondents 18 to 34 years old were more likely than their elders to say they often use a cell phone when driving, roll through a stop sign, or drive at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.

The poll revealed one good piece of news: 87 percent of drivers never read or sent text messages while behind the wheel.

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