From: Scott Sincoff, ENN
Published April 27, 2012 06:36 PM

Overweight Drivers are Less Likely to Buckle Up

Overweight drivers are at a risk of being injured in an automobile accident, says a new health study. According to researchers at the University at Buffalo, obese drivers are less likely to buckle their seatbelts in a car compared to a driver who is of average weight. This study said that this specific behavior due to physical composition puts obese drivers at a much greater risk of injury or death if a car accident occurs.

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According to the study, researchers led by Dr. Dietrich Jehle found that average-weight drivers are 67 percent more likely to wear their seatbelts than obese drivers. In the study, overweight drivers consisted of people who had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or greater. The World Health Organization states that a BMI of 25-30 defined as overweight, 30-35 slightly obese, 35-40 moderately obese and 40 morbidly obese.

Jehle said that the study supports previous automobile and health research which theorized that not wearing a safety belt in a vehicle is associated with death. "We hypothesized that obese drivers were less likely to wear seatbelts than their normal weight counterparts. Obese drivers may find it more difficult to buckle up a standard seatbelt," said Jehle.

The current findings supplement research done by the same University at Buffalo research team that identified obesity as a risk factor for mortality in a 2010 study of 155,584 crashes in car crashes. The 2010 study also found that found that morbidly obese individuals are 56 percent more likely to die in a crash than individuals of normal weight.

The research team used data from the national Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for their study. This method tracks automobile crashes and factors in numerous variables about the collisions, several of which could be related to seatbelt use. The researchers also investigated 336,913 drivers who were in a severe crash where a death occurred.

Jehle said that the research supported the linear relationship between obesity and seatbelt use. "The more obese the driver, the less likely that seatbelts were used," said Jehle.

He also said that not people not buckling their safety belts could be causing more danger for themselves because the force of a car crash could deliver an increased chance of being thrown from the vehicle.

"The question is: Is there something we can do to cars to make them safer for the obese?" asked Jehle. "How can we make it more likely for people, including the overweight or obese, to wear seatbelts?" He adds that his team's research raises the notion of how to best conduct crash-tests of cars. Jehle noted that the dummies that are used in crash-tests are not overweight, but people in reality may be.

For more information, please visit: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/13389

Image Credit: Car Crash via Shutterstock

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