Automotive engineers design cars, trucks and SUVs to be as safe as possible for drivers and passengers, but a recent study points out they may have left out one crucial factor. Car safety technology, such as airbags and seatbelts, are designed using the parameters of the “average” individual, which means that people who are overweight or underweight may not reap the same benefits as those who are closer to the average.
A group of researchers examined data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 1996 to 2008, searching through nearly 57,500 fatal traffic collisions for those that involved two vehicles and resulted in one or both drivers dying. In the 3,403 applicable accidents, roughly half the drivers were normal weight, one in three was considered overweight and 18 percent were obese. Obese drivers were more likely to die in these accidents than overweight and normal weight drivers, and this risk increased the more a driver weighed.
“The ability of passenger vehicles to protect overweight or obese occupants may have increasingly important public health implications, given the continuing obesity epidemic in the USA,” the study authors wrote. “… It may be the case that passenger vehicles are well-designed to protect normal weight vehicle occupants, but are deficient in protecting overweight or obese occupants.”
The researchers also indicated the underlying health problems that often accompany obesity may contribute to the increased risk, so the blame might not fall entirely on the design of the vehicles.
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