A person's weight may affect their car insurance rates, as a new study from the University of Buffalo found that both the morbidly obese and the underweight are at a higher risk of dying during a severe car accident.
Researchers analyzed data from the national Fatality Analysis Reporting System database to find a connection between body size and the risk of a crash-related fatality. They found that in serious crashes that occurred between 2000 and 2005 that involved one or two vehicles, moderately and morbidly obese drivers from either sex demonstrated a significantly higher risk of death compared with drivers at a healthy weight.
Morbidly obese drivers had a 56 percent increased risk of succumbing to injuries sustained a car accident, noticeably higher than the 21 percent risk faced by the moderately obese. However, the study also showed that people who were underweight or at a normal weight were at a higher risk of dying in an extreme crash then slightly overweight drivers.
"The rate of obesity is continuing to rise, so is it imperative that car designs are modified to protect the obese population, and that crash tests are done using a full range of dummy sizes," said Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo and lead author of the study.
Jehle said current crash dummies are designed to imitate normal-weight individuals and therefore, can not adequately demonstrate the affect of a severe crash on all body types. Actions from manufacturers like producing larger crash dummies, extending the range of adjustable seats and encouraging heavier people to buy more spacious vehicles can help improve safety for the obese, he said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that more than 33,000 people died from traffic accidents in 2009. California had the highest rate of fatalities that year at 3,081 while Alaska saw the least, with only 64 traffic deaths that year.