Obesity may increase survival in road crashes: study

February 18, 2010

Overweight men who wear a safety belt have a better chance of surviving a motor vehicle crash than underweight men who buckle up, a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute indicates.

According to a university press release, Ann Arbor-based UMTRI researchers analyzed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data of nearly 300,000 drivers involved in fatal crashes in the United States from 1998 to 2008. Findings show belted male drivers who are obese (with a body mass index between 35 and 50) have a 22 percent lower probability of being killed if involved in a crash than belted male drivers who are underweight (a BMI between 15 and 18.4). However, unbelted overweight males are 10 percent more likely to be killed in a crash than unbelted underweight males.

Researchers suggested the design of occupant-restraint system components may need to improve to better protect drivers and passengers at both BMI extremes. The study was published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.