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Obese motorists more likely to die during a crash: study

January 30, 2013

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Berkeley, CA – Obese drivers are more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than normal-weight drivers, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of West Virginia.

As part of the study, researchers used the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System to identify the body mass index of vehicle occupants involved in more than 57,000 crashes between 1996 and 2008.

Motorists with low-level obesity (BMI between 30 and 35) were 21 percent more likely to die in a severe crash than normal-weight individuals (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9); motorists with mid-level obesity (BMI between 35 and 39.9) were 51 percent more likely to die; and severely obese individuals (BMI greater than 40) were 80 percent more likely to die.

Researchers suggested improper safety belt use could explain some of the differences in fatality risk. They recommended vehicle designers take into account larger-size occupants when developing safety belts and other safety systems.

The study was published online Jan. 21 in Emergency Medicine Journal.

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