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Obese Drivers Are Less Likely to Wear Seatbelts

Update Date: Apr 30, 2012 12:37 AM EDT

 

Photo: Flickr/Timo Newton-Syms
Photo: Flickr/Timo Newton-Syms

Driving without a seatbelt puts drivers at greater risk of severe injury or death during motor vehicle crashes. However, obese drivers are much less likely to drive without buckling up, according to a new study.

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Researchers at the University at Buffalo found that normal weight drivers are 67 percent more likely to wear a seatbelt than morbidly obese drivers.

"We found that the relationship between the amount of obesity and seatbelt use was linear; the more obese the driver, the less likely that seatbelts were used," said lead author Dietrich Jehle, MD, professor of emergency medicine at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The finding comes from the same UB researchers who in 2010 identified obesity as a risk factor for death in a study of 155,584 drivers in severe auto crashes. In that study, they found that morbidly obese individuals are 56 percent more likely to die in a crash than individuals of normal weight. 

"Not buckling up is, of course, a deadly decision," said Jehle: it delivers more force to the body much more quickly while also increasing the chances of being thrown from the car.

"We need to do something, since one-third of the U.S. population is overweight (not obese) and one-third is considered obese," Jehle said."But on the bright side, cars are much safer now and traffic fatalities in the U.S. have been declining for many years."

He said that that decline is a result of multiple safety initiatives, including safety glass, better seatbelts, divided highways, less drunk driving, airbags, stability control systems, sensors that alert drivers when they stray from a lane and drowsy driver alert systems.

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