I’m sure you know about all the health risks associated with being overweight. You’ve grown tired from hearing about the increased risk of diabetes. You’re sick of learning about the association between weight and heart disease. You might even have had enough of the talk of sleep apnea.
It turns out that the risks associated with your go beyond the body to behind the wheel. A new study from The University of California at Berkeley found that drivers are between 20 and 80% more likely to die in car crashes than individuals with a BMI less than 30. The study didn’t address whether or not obesity increases your risk of getting into an accident; It found that if you were unlucky enough to crash, the more you weigh, the more you were likely to die from the injuries. The lowest fatality rates were among drivers with BMIs ranging from 18.5 to 30.
There are many explanations as to why this may be. One hypothesis is that overweight individuals have more medical issues and may be less able to survive the difficult surgeries following a car crash. In addition, it is more difficult to get proper seat belt fit if you’re obese. Seat belts respond slower to soft tissue (i.e. fat). Thus, when heavy drivers are involved in collisions, their seat belts have less opportunity to lessen the impact.
Another interesting fact was noted by the study’s researchers note. The crash-test dummies that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration use to assess the safety of automobiles are representative of people in the normal BMI range. It is assumed that the results apply to all sizes of people, but that assumption is not necessarily true. The authors actually encouraged the NHTSA to consider modifying the crash-test dummies to be more consistent with the wide range of drivers’ weights.
Until the NHTSA changes their testing methods and the auto manufacturers redesign their cars we’re stuck with the risk. It’s just another reason to slim down in case you needed it, which hopefully you didn’t.
- Well: An Unexpected Road Hazard: Obesity (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Obese drivers more at risk of dying (standard.co.uk)
- Study: Obese drivers more likely to die in crashes (usatoday.com)