Deadly decision: Obese drivers are far less likely to buckle up

April 27, 2012 By Ellen Goldbaum, University at Buffalo
"The more obese the driver, the less likely that seatbelts were used," says Dietrich Jehle, MD, professor of emergency medicine at UB.

(Phys.org) -- Obese drivers are far less likely to wear seatbelts than are drivers of normal weight, a new University at Buffalo study has found, a behavior that puts them at greater risk of severe injury or death during motor vehicle crashes.

The UB study found that normal weight drivers are 67 percent more likely to wear a seatbelt than morbidly obese drivers. Drivers were considered overweight or obese if they had a BMI () of 25 or more, according to the definition of , with 25-30 defined as overweight, 30-35 slightly obese, 35-40 moderately obese and 40 morbidly obese.

"It's clear that not wearing a seatbelt is associated with a higher chance of death," says lead author Dietrich Jehle, MD, professor of emergency medicine at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and associate medical director at Erie County Medical Center. "We hypothesized that obese drivers were less likely to wear seatbelts than their normal weight counterparts. Obese drivers may find it more difficult to buckle up a standard seatbelt."

The finding comes from the same UB researchers who in 2010 identified obesity as a risk factor for death in a study of 155,584 drivers in severe auto crashes. In that study, they found that morbidly obese individuals are 56 percent more likely to die in a crash than individuals of .

The results of the current study, "Obesity and Seatbelt Use," will be presented May 10 in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Society for .

The UB researchers based their study on data in the national (FARS) of the , which tracks motor vehicle crashes and numerous variables about the collisions, some of which are related to seatbelt use. They looked at 336,913 drivers who were in a severe crash where a death occurred and controlled for confounding variables.

"We found that the relationship between the amount of obesity and seatbelt use was linear; the more obese the driver, the less likely that seatbelts were used," says Jehle.

Not buckling up is, of course, a deadly decision, says Jehle: it delivers more force to the body much more quickly while also increasing the chances of being thrown from the car.

"The question is: Is there something we can do to cars to make them safer for the obese?" asks Jehle. "How can we make it more likely for people, including the overweight or obese, to wear seatbelts?" He adds that these findings also raise questions about how best to conduct crash-tests of cars. He notes that the dummies that are used in crash-tests are not obese.

"We need to do something, since one-third of the U.S. population is overweight (not obese) and one-third is considered obese," Jehle says. "But on the bright side, cars are much safer now and traffic fatalities in the U.S. have been declining for many years."

He says that that decline is a result of multiple safety initiatives, including safety glass, better seatbelts, divided highways, less drunk driving, airbags, stability control systems, sensors that alert drivers when they stray from a lane and drowsy driver alert systems.

Explore further: Obesity: America lightens up, but just a little

Related Stories

Obesity: America lightens up, but just a little

October 7, 2011
The percentage of Americans who are overweight or obese fell slightly in the third quarter of this year, but they still make up a majority of the population, a Gallup poll showed Friday.

Recommended for you

Number of older people with four or more diseases will double by 2035, say researchers

January 23, 2018
A study published today in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, reports that the number of older people diagnosed with four or more diseases will double between 2015 and 2035. A third ...

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2012
So people who cant be bothered to put down the fork also cant be bothered to buckle up? Big surprise there.
rwinners
not rated yet Apr 28, 2012
Not only are buckles harder to fasten when one is obese, the strap also ends up cutting across the neck. I don't like it at all and so avoid the use of seat belts or modify it in some means.
If some entrepenuer wants to make a killing, he might market a simple extension of the buckle side of the belting system. 6" would probably work for most. It should be semi-rigid.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.