Putting on Pounds Sours You to Seatbelts

Study finds overweight drivers are less likely to wear seat belts -- greater risk of injury or death

Posted in News

— Need another reason to lose weight?  According to a study from the University of Buffalo, in New York, overweight drivers are at greater risk of injury or death in an auto accident because they don't wear their seat belt.

The 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 (body mass index) of 25 or more, according to the World Health Organization definition of obesity, with 25-30 defined as overweight, 30-35 slightly obese, 35-40 moderately obese and 40 morbidly obese.

University researchers based their study on data in the national Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They looked at 336,913 drivers who were in a severe crash where a death occurred.

"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."

Not good news for American drivers considering one-third of the population is overweight and one-third is considered obese.

University of Buffalo researchers point out that crash-test dummies aren't obese, so it might be time for the dummies to start eating more.

The results of the current study, "Obesity and Seatbelt Use," was presented on May 10, 2012, in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.