TUESDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Obese drivers are up to 80 percent more likely to die in a car crash than normal-weight drivers, a new study finds.
Car designers may need to take heavier drivers into consideration to keep them safer, the researchers said.
"This study highlights yet another negative consequence of obesity," said study co-author Thomas Rice, a research epidemiologist with the University of California, Berkeley's Safe Transportation Research & Education Center.
"Our findings suggest two things: first, that there is something about obese vehicle occupants that causes poorer outcomes. That thing is probably a higher prevalence of comorbidities -- other health conditions -- related to obesity that inhibit survival and recovery from severe injury," he said.
Second, earlier research has shown that the proper interaction between seat belts and the human body is inhibited in the obese, Rice said.
"Specifically, the lap belt is prevented from engaging the pelvis due to excess body fat. It is this engagement between lap belt and pelvis that impedes the forward motion of occupants during frontal collisions," he said.
Rice stressed the importance of proper seat belt use, especially among the obese. "It is critical that the lap belt be positioned as low as possible on the lap and as close to one's pelvis as possible," he said.
The report was published in the Jan. 21 online edition of the Emergency Medicine Journal.
For the study, Rice and Dr. Motao Zhu, from the department of epidemiology and Injury Control Research Center at the University of West Virginia, used fatality data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 1996 to 2008.
During that time, details of more than 57,000 car accidents were documented. Rice and Zhu looked specifically for accidents involving two cars resulting in a death.
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