Obese drivers more likely to die in car crashes
The study found overweight people are propelled further forward during a collision because their additional soft tissue prevents the seat belt tightening immediately against the bones of the pelvis.
According to the Daily Mail, the AA said car manufacturers in the UK might want to look at safety features that could be added or adapted to protect the growing body of obese Britons.
The study included 6,806 drivers involved in 3,403 collisions, of which 18 per cent were classified as obese, 33 per cent were overweight and 46 per cent had a healthy weight. Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above.
The findings show those who were most obese, with a BMI of 40 and above, were 80 per cent more likely to die in an accident than drivers of a healthy weight. Those who were severely obese (with a BMI of 35-39.9) were 51 per cent more likely to be killed in a crash, while the excess risk was 21 per cent for obese people with a BMI of 30-34.9.
Obese women were found to be at greater risk than men, with a BMI of 35 and over roughly doubling the risk of death compared with women of normal weight. The biggest risk for men was a 75 per cent higher risk of death among the most obese, while underweight male drivers were also more likely to die in a collision than those of a healthy weight.
Dr Tom Rice, Division of Environmental Sciences, Safe Transportation and Research Center, University of California at Berkeley, California, said the obesity epidemic meant car design might need to be reconsidered. "It may be the case that passenger vehicles are well designed to protect normal weight vehicle occupants but are deficient in protecting overweight or obese occupants," he said.
"Findings from this study suggest that obese vehicle drivers are more likely to die from traffic collision-related injuries than non-obese occupants involved in the same collision.
"Education is needed to improve seat belt use among obese people. Clinical intervention could inform obese patients of the additional traffic injury risks and potential benefits of losing weight," he added.