Extremely obese drivers are more likely to die in a car accident, a US report has concluded. According to the study, conducted by Dr Tom Rice of The University of California, drivers with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher are 80 per cent more likely to perish in an impact because their body fat reduces the effectiveness of their seat belt.

Obese people have a more enormous chance of dying in car accidents.
Obese people have a more enormous chance of dying in car accidents.

Dr Rice and his team cross-referenced almost 3,500 collisions involving over 6,000 motorists. They analysed the Body Mass Indices of the drivers, types of collision, vehicle types and gender. Though vehicle and collision types offered no meaningful insights into your likelihood of death, the numbers concerning BMI and gender threw up some interesting results.

The report suggests being overweight or obese can lead to health complications, such as a greater risk of heart attacks, diabetes, etc. and this was acknowledged as a contributory factor in some accidents.

However, the research also suggests the body make-up of supersize motorists can prevent seatbelts working as effectively as they would on those of normal weight. Seatbelts are designed to lock in place on sudden, sharp contact, but the soft tissues on an extremely obese person can cushion that contact, increasing the time it takes for the belt to lock. Obese women are at even greater risk, the study claims, which suggests their extra pillowy anatomy reduces seatbelt effectiveness further still.

Interestingly, the researchers found underweight drivers had an increase in risk of 19 per cent compared with people of normal weight.

Clearly, more research needs to be done to explain the results. It raises several questions such as: are obese people wearing their seatbelts correctly? Do seatbelts need to be redesigned to offer better protection for a wider range of body types? And how much cake is too much cake?

In his report, Dr Rice impresses a need for education on seatbelt use. A few tips on how best to use the contents of the fridge probably wouldn't go amiss, either.

Overweight people are considered to have a BMI of 25-29.9. Obese people have a BMI of 30 or higher. Extremely obese people are classed as having a BMI of 40 and above.

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