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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that more than one-third of Americans have an expanded waistline which can lead to such overweight-related conditions as heart disease, sleep apnea, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer. UC Berkeley scientists added yet another negative consequence of carrying around more than a few extra pounds. The study's lead researchers, Thomas Rice, Ph.D. of the University of California, Berkeley and Motao Zhu, Ph.D. of the University of West Virginia examined data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System. In that period, 41,283 collisions in the nation were submitted. The team pointed to previous research that showed that an obese driver's lower body is propelled farther upon impact before a seat belt engages the pelvis. The driver's additional abdominal tissue prevents the belt from fitting snugly but the upper body is held back. And speaking of seatbelts and overweight motorists, a University at Buffalo study found obese drivers are also less likely than normal weight drivers to use their seatbelts.
"The ability of passenger vehicles to protect obese occupants may have increasingly important public health implications, given the continuing obesity epidemic in the USA," the study's clinicians surmised. The scientists noted how passenger vehicles are designed for the most part to protect consumers who are within a normal weight range. The study's authors suggest that while obese individuals may have an array of health issues, vehicle design may need to change to provide better protection. "Vehicle designers are teaching to the test–designing, so that crash-test dummies do well," said Rice. "But crash-test dummies are typically normal size adults and children. They're not designed to account for our nation's changing body types." A female crash test dummy typically weighs in at 108 pounds, while the male version comes in at 172 pounds.
The study also noted two other startling results, underweight male drivers were more likely to die behind the wheel following a serious crash than a man of average weight. Obese women fare even worse than their male counterparts following a collision having double the risk of dying in a car accident.