Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Unexpected Road Hazard: Obesity

News Brief by Evan Balmuth

A new study reports that obese drivers are more likely than drivers of average weight to
die in a car crash. The findings, published in January's issue of the Emergency Medicine Journal, were based on data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and driver's licenses, from which BMIs were calculated. (A BMI of 30 or greater indicates obesity.) From comparison of 3,403 fatal accidents and 6,806 drivers, researchers concluded that when compared to drivers of average BMI, those with a BMI of 30 to 34.9 faced a 21 percent increased risk of death; those with a BMI of 35 to 39.9 faced a 51 percent increased risk; and those with a BMI greater than 40 faced an 81 percent increased risk.
Although the causes of this increased risk remain undetermined, they may include factors like driver health and vehicle design. As evidence, one study cited by the study's authors found that when compared to normal cadavers, obese cadavers had more forward movement before seat belt engagement during collisions. Other data considered in this study such as air bag efficiency, type of vehicle, use of seat belt, driver's age and sex and alcohol did not account for the difference between average weight and obese drivers' fatalities. As lead author Thomas M. Rice said of his study, “This adds one more item to the long list of negative consequences of obesity… It's one more reason to lose weight.”

Reference: Bakalar, Nicholas. "An Unexpected Road Hazard: Obesity." New York Times 21 Jan 2013, online Well. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. .
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