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Obese drivers more likely to die in car accidents, says Canadian study

Obese drivers

Obese drivers A new study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention finds that obese drivers in the United States are at higher risk for car crash fatalities. And with the growing rates of obesity in both Canada and the United States, researchers say that car companies and policy makers need to pay attention to the issues connected to this rising demographic of car drivers.

The study looked at data on fatal car crashes in the U.S. between 1999 and 2012 and found a marked increase in the proportion of those involved in fatalities who were classified as obese. Compared to non-obese controls, obese drivers were more likely to die in car crashes. They were also more also likely to not be wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, which the study’s authors suggest might be a factor leading to the higher fatality rate for obese drivers.

Further findings included a greater likelihood that obese drivers were in need of mechanical assistance in extrication from the vehicle after the crash and that obese drivers spent a greater amount of time in transport from crash site to hospital. Obese drivers were also found more often to have been in multiple car crashes leading up to the fatal crash, a sign that other conditions related to obesity such as diabetes and sleep apnea may be increasing the risk of fatal collision.

Researchers and advocates have pushed for changes in every facet of life including car design and safety so as to adequately respond to this demographic shift. Crash test dummies, for example, were updated as of 2014 to include an obese weight class.

The study’s authors suggest that because of the significant increase in obesity in drivers since 1999, federal and professional standards on vehicle design, safety testing and extrication and transportation procedures must become more responsive to the needs and issues facing this population group. “Taken together, these findings show that obesity poses a growing challenge for road safety in the US in this century and requires concerted efforts for traffic injury prevention and control,” say the study’s authors.

Two-thirds of the population in the United States is either overweight or obese, with ten percent of this group being morbidly obese, and researchers and advocates have pushed for changes in every facet of life including car design and safety so as to adequately respond to this demographic shift. Crash test dummies, for example, were updated as of 2014 to include an obese weight class.

In Canada, one in four adults and one in ten children have clinical obesity, which is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Obesity is a leading cause of many health problems including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, and according to the Canadian Obesity Network, the estimated direct costs of overweight and obesity is over $6-billion or 4.1 per cent of Canada’s total health care budget.

This past month saw Canadian health advocates, the Dietitians of Canada, call on the Canadian government to put a tax of up to 20 per cent on sugar-sweetened beverages, which studies have linked to overweight and obesity. “Seeing higher shelf-prices on these drinks, which is what happens with an excise tax, will be a bigger deterrent for consumers than a sales tax added at the cash register,” says Kate Comeau, dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada.

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About The Author /

Jayson MacLean
Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.

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