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Obese drivers more likely to be killed in car crashes

A new study found that overweight and obese people are more likely to die in car accidents in the U.S. The likelihood of dying in a car accident increased the heavier the person was, according to a study published in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

The researchers attributed the increased risk of being a fatal car accident to the way seat belts fit overweight and obese occupants. They said that it takes longer for the seat belt to engage an overweight or obese driver's pelvis in a car crash, but the upper part of their body is held back because of how the seat belt fits these drivers. This increases the risk of serious and fatal injuries during a car accident.

The study found that seat belts do not fit obese drivers as tight as they should around their pelvis, putting overweight and obese individuals at risk for being killed in car crashes. The researchers recommended that overweight and obese occupants wear their seat belt down against their lap and pull it in as close as possible for more protection.

The researchers said that vehicles may need to change their safety designs, including their seat belts, to address the concerns found in this study. Specifically, seat belts and airbags may need to be designed to address the safety concerns for overweight and obese occupants.

They also said that more research needs to be done to show how different sized bodies react in car collisions. This can help determine was safety measures and vehicle designs need to be changed to address these safety concerns.

While the study shows that seat belts do not fit overweight and obese drivers as well, safety advocates say that it is still important for all vehicle occupants to wear their seat belt as it offers more protection during a crash than not wearing one.

Source: Cincinnati, "Study: Obese drivers more likely to die in crashes," Cathy Payne, Jan. 22, 2013

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