A recent study from the Safe Transportation and Research Education Center at UC Berkeley has found that obesity is a significant risk factor behind fatalities in car accidents. According to researchers, obese drivers and passengers are nearly 80% more likely to die when involved in a traffic collision.
The study’s findings reveal a unique consequence of obesity, which affects more than a third of adults in America. Among the many risks posed by obesity and obesity-related conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, researchers are beginning to discover that obese Americans also face elevated risks as vehicle occupants when compared to drivers and passengers who weigh less.
Here are some additional facts about the study and researcher’s findings.
- Researchers reviewed over 40,000 crash reports from data accumulated by the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
- When obese vehicle occupants are involved in collisions, their lower body travels further following an impact before a seat belt engages and limits movement of the pelvis.
- Additional problems include added abdominal tissue that prevents seat belts from fitting properly and less support on the lap band as compared to the upper body.
The study may play an instrumental role in not only adding to the list of negative consequences of obesity, but also in aiding automakers to take into consideration increased health implications and crash risks associated with extra weight. As obesity is an increasing epidemic in America, researchers and advocates note, protecting motorists should be a top health and transportation safety priority.
Currently, most vehicles are designed to protect vehicle occupants of normal weight. With over 36% of Americans being clinically obese, many vehicle safety features fall short in protecting a large percentage of people on the road. As such, researchers suggest that vehicle design be influenced by better and more varied testing methods.
Due to the unique safety issues faced by obese motorists, researchers propose improved testing for seat belts, as one previous study from the University of Buffalo found that obese passengers and drivers are nearly 70% less likely to wear seat belts than vehicle occupants of normal weight. This is often due to poor and uncomfortable fitting. Seat belts that not only accommodate passengers of different body types but also keep them safe will be critical to reducing deaths on our roadways.
In addition to testing and improving seat belt technology, other crash risks can be addressed through the use of different sized crash test dummies for both children and adults. Currently, crash test dummies used by safety agencies and auto manufacturers are relatively underweight compared to our nation’s average size and weight. Female crash test dummies weigh under 108 pounds, and crash test dummies used to represent male passengers weight roughly 170 pounds. To improve outcomes in car accidents for all motorists, authors of the study suggest, these crash test dummies should be designed to account for the changing body types of Americans, including overweight, obese, and even undersized occupants. For example, the study also found that underweight male drivers are also more likely to die in auto accidents than men of normal weight.
While weight and many other personal factors can increase risks of injuries or death in auto accidents, it does not mean that these drivers are more likely to cause crashes themselves. Even when all precautions are taken and motorists drive safely, they can still suffer preventable harm when others are negligent and fail to uphold their legal duty of obeying the law and taking reasonable measures to be safe. Fortunately, victims injured as a result of negligence have the right to initiate the personal injury claim process and pursue financial compensation for their damages, including their medical bills, lost income, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.
At The Kelleher Firm, P.A., we have helped a diverse clientele protect their rights and futures following all types of preventable car wrecks. As a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney by The Florida Bar, a distinction held by just 1% of all lawyers in the state, Attorney Ryan C. Kuhl has demonstrated the highest standards of professional ability, experience, and competency. He leverages these skills when fighting for the injured and the wronged and working to secure the maximum compensation on their behalves.
To discuss a recent car accident and learn more about your rights, call (239) 309-7550 for a FREE case review. Our firm proudly serves clients throughout Naples and the surrounding areas of Florida.