Seriously overweight drivers are between 20 and 80 times more likely to die in motor vehicle crashes than those with a lower body mass index.
The study (published in Emergency Medicine Journal) used information from over 40,000 real accidents recorded in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
Scientists started with collisions in which the cars, trucks or minivans were the same size, then categorized the vehicles drivers into groups based on height and weight. They also collected information on seat-belt use, time of day, driver alcohol use, air bag deployment and collision type – nothing but B.M.I. (body mass index) accounted for the big difference in fatality rate.
Researchers did not profess to understand the reasons for the correlation, but other studies that have shown an increased risk of accidents and fatalities for obese drivers because of weight-related health conditions.
Crash-test dummies used in vehicle safety testing represent the size of the average (50% percentile) person.
Given that one-third of the U.S. population is considered clinically “obese”, it’s time to design cars with safety features that can be adjusted to protect drivers of all weights and sizes. NHTSA should start by running the standard safety testing with larger crash-test models.
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