Study Shows Obesity Can Increase Chances of Death in Car Crashes

By Jacob Brown | April 30, 2012
Are you getting tired of the constant reminders that being severely overweight is unhealthy? The condition can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, being hard of breathing, and now increased chances of dying in a car accident. To reiterate in case you missed it: Yes, you're more likely to die in a car accident as a result of being obese. The findings come from the University at Buffalo's Dr. Dietrich Jehle, who led a study to discover the correlation between weight and mortality in a car accident. He started with 168,049 accidents in his database where someone died within 30 days of the crash. His group then whittled it down to 155,584 severe crashes from 2000 to 2005, further separating people into classes: underweight ("Hey, Twiggy!"), normal (as in normal), overweight (You could afford to lay off mom's baked goods), slightly obese (We call it carrying a natural fanny pack), moderately obese (When was the last time you saw your toes?), and morbidly obese (People around you make loud beeping noises when you back up). Jehle used a mathematical formula taking body mass index divided by height in meters squared, so don't just think "That BMI stuff is nonsense anyway." There's some validity to his findings. Printed in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, his published study found that a moderately obese driver faces a 21 percent increased chance of death, and a morbidly obese person faces a 56 percent increased chance of fatality. Underweight and normal-sized drivers were found to be at a slightly higher risk level than overweight drivers, if only because they often sit too close to the steering wheel when an airbag deploys and don't have enough mass to keep them protected. What does this all mean to you? Well, not much if you're of a fairly healthy weight or just a little round around the edges. But for the rest of the country, which is generally pretty hefty, it shows automakers they could do more to provide for the more rotund. "Crash test dummies have saved lives and provided invaluable data on how human bodies react to crashes, but they are designed to represent normal-weight individuals," Jehle said in a statement. "If they represented our overweight American society, there could be further improvements in vehicle design that could decrease mortality." Continued Jehle: "We also recommend that manufacturers design and test vehicle interiors with obese dummies, which currently are not available, in addition to testing with the 50 percentile (BMI 24.3) male dummy," he said. "It would improve safety for the one-third of the U.S. population that is obese. For underweight and normal weight individuals, placing airbags within the seat belt also might be protective." Jehle recommended making seats further adjustable to cope with larger bodies and keep smaller people farther from the steering wheel, where an airbag may do more damage than good.'s take: But gym memberships aren't too terribly expensive. In fact, they're a lot more affordable than medical treatment for being overweight. Is it so wrong to recommend a little personal accountability if it would mean enhanced safety? Source: University at Buffalo

That's crazy, I never would've guessed.