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Overweight People are More Likely to Die in Accidents

Posted on February 19, 2013

Add this to the list of health risks for overweight individuals: obesity can contribute to death in a car accident up to 80 percent of the time. Excess body fat seems to interfere with the safety mechanisms in most current car manufacturers so that they are less effective than if the same person were of a normal weight.

Picture of an Obese Teenager (146kg/322lb) wit...

Picture of an Obese Teenager (146kg/322lb) with Central Obesity, side view.Self Made Picture of an Obese Teenager (Myself) (146kg/322lb) with Central Obesity, Front View. Feel Free to use. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The results are based off the United States Fatality Accident Reporting System from the years of 1996 through 2008. Researchers analyzed data only from accidents between passenger vehicles. They also only considered crashes between those vehicles where the crash impact was the cause of the most serious injuries, or lead to the death of one or more people. They also considered the size of the vehicles in the crash and focused only on those of similar sizes.

Once as many variables could be eliminated as possible, the study had 3,403 crashes to consider. They then focused on the attributes of the drivers that could contribute to the injuries sustained from a crash. That includes age, weight, seat belt usage and whether the air bags were deployed. 46 percent of drivers were in the healthy weight range, about 30 percent were overweight and the remaining drivers were considered obese.

seat belt

seat belt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main issues contributing to death or injury were improper seat belt usage. About one in three people were not using the seat belt fully and instead only used shoulder, lap or none at all. The second contributing factor was non-deployment of airbags. They only deployed in about half of the crashes. However, once that was factored into the research a more disturbing pattern emerged.

According to the World Health Organization’s classification of obesity, each class was more likely to suffer a serious injury or die in a car accident. Class I has a body mass index of 30 to 34 and is 21 percent more likely to die in a car crash. Class II has a body mass index of 35 to 39 and is 51 percent more likely to die in a crash. At Class III with a body mass index of 40 or more, that person is 80 percent more likely to die in a car accident than a normal weight person.

The odds are worse for overweight women. Class I women are 36 percent more likely to die. Class II women are twice as likely to die as men. The study also found that underweight men are at risk and are more likely to die than normal weight men.

As for what specifically creates such a high risk for obese people, researchers have a few theories. First of all, seat belts are designed to lock the passenger at the pelvis and prevent them from propelling forward. The seat belt cannot work this way for obese people. The extra weight also compounds the problem by pushing them farther forward with the impact of the crash. Add any underlying health conditions due to the obesity and the likelihood of surviving continues to drop.

If you were injured in a car accident, speak to a personal injury lawyer.

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