According to a recent study by the University of California at Berkeley's Safe Transportation Research & Education Center obese drivers are 80 percent more likely to die in a car accident than drivers who were not overweight. The report found that improperly positioned or inadequate seatbelts might contribute to the increased death rate.
The report found that overweight drivers need to be conscientious when buckling their belt and that auto manufacturers should design vehicles that do a better job of protecting obese passengers. According to lead author Thomas Rice and co-author Motao Zhu, an assistant professor with the University of West Virginia Department of Epidemiology and Injury Control Research Center, "It may be the case that vehicles are well designed to protect normal-weight vehicle occupants but are deficient in protecting overweight or obese occupants."
The study reinforced earlier research that concluded seat belts do not sufficiently restrain obese people resulting in the body propelling forward farther in an accident. Proper placement of the lap belt --it should positioned as low on a drivers lap as possible -- is key to the safety of obese drivers.
The study examined accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1996 to 2008. They analyzed 57,491 accidents and cut that data down to 3,400 accidents that resulted in deaths with two vehicles of a similar type and size.
The researchers found that the more overweight a driver is, the greater chance a person has of dying in a collision. They used the World Health Organization definitions of obesity to determine the weight at which drivers become obese. The study found the following:
- At the highest obesity level which was a 40 or higher BMI driver were 80 percent more likely to die than regular sized drivers.
- At the 35 to 39.9 BMI level, drivers had a 51 percent better chance of dying.
- At the 30 to 34.9 level the chance of being more likely to die drops to 21 percent.
While seat belt positioning was one reason obese people tend to die when they are in an accident, researchers also found that obesity-related illnesses may also have an effect on their ability to recover from injuries sustained in an accident.
Obesity is a Big and Growing Problem
Americans are getting fatter every year. More than one-third of U.S adults are now obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Roughly 17 percent of adolescents and children aged 2 to 12 also fall into this category.
Being overweight is an expensive condition. Cornell University found that medical costs, tied to obesity, are nearly double previous estimates. The study found that medical costs for an obese person are almost $3,000 higher than a person at a healthy weight. This puts the nationwide costs of obesity at roughly $190 billion per year.
Many employers have taken notice and are offering financial rewards for employees that get involved in wellness programs that include weight-loss components. Some firms are evening penalizing workers who refuse to sign up for these programs.Reducing your weight is not only a great way to save some money on health and life insurance, it may just save your life if you are in a serious car accident.
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