Personal injury news

Obese people are more at risk of death in a car accident

Two recent studies have come to the same conclusion – that obese and overweight drivers are far more at risk of dying in a car accident than lighter people. And the RAC Foundation is calling for car manufacturers to modify their in-car safety features with this in mind.

An American study looked at the circumstances of over 26,000 car accidents and found that people classed as clinically obese are almost two and half times more likely to die in the accident.

And weight wasn’t the only factor. A separate study in New Zealand showed that the body mass index (the ratio of height to weight, known as BMI) also proved to be significant. Individuals with a BMI of 35 to 39 (30 is considered obese) were twice as likely to die as people with a BMI of 20.

Accident Compensation People, who specialise in bringing car accident compensation claims, says that over recent years, they have become more and more aware that weight can be a significant factor in determining whether people recover from their injuries or not. “As the level of obesity in our society rises,” says Sophie Evans, “so does the number of larger people dying in road accidents. We often speak to bereaved relatives who tell us that hospital doctors have said that their loved one’s weight could have been a contributing factor in their deaths.”

There may be several reasons why larger people are more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident including:

  • Car safety features may not be suitably designed for heavier people – air bags and seat-belts are often manufactured with thinner people in mind
  • Crash dummies used to assess risk are usually based on the 50 th percentile male – average build, in other words
  • Overweight and obese people may be more prone to certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea which may make them more likely to fall asleep at the wheel
  • High-blood pressure, diabetes and increased likelihood of heart disease may make recovering from their injuries harder
  • It may be more difficult for the rescue services to remove obese people from their vehicles
  • In a crash, an obese person may be more likely to swallow their tongue, leading to suffocation

Edmund King, the Executive Director of the RAC Foundation said, “Smarter design using different shapes of test dummies and use of technology could help to reduce the severity of injury for obese occupants.”

But he added that drivers have a responsibility to know the risks they are taking. “Generally, it would be fair to say that it comes down to the survival of the fittest as fitter occupants are more likely to survive a crash.”


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