Obesity & How It Affects The Outcome In Collisions Involving An Obese Driver or Passengers.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Obesity & How It Affects The Outcome In Collisions Involving An Obese Driver or Passengers.


By Chris Jarratt of Bariquins (Mar 2017)


            I recently tweeted on the @bariquins account an article about crash test dummies becoming larger to mimic the increasing number of drivers and passengers suffering from obesity. That reminded me of some research that I had previously found.

The research concerned a study which concluded that obese drivers were more likely to die in road traffic collisions. Statistics were gathered from fatal collisions between 1999 and 2012 in America. Although records were available for over 750,000 fatal crashes, of which obesity information was held for over half a million of those, the study concentrated on just the obese drivers of passenger cars. This still amounted to nearly 300,000 fatalities.



Significantly Higher Risks of Fatality.


            Analysis of this large bank of figures found that, compared to non-obese drivers, the obese driver had ‘significantly higher risks of fatality’ in a collision.

Further findings established that obese drivers were also a significantly higher risk for

  • not using their seat belt
  • for needing extraction after the collision
  • for a greater ambulance transport time


Factors which, when added together, explains the reason for the higher risk of deaths.

Another study has shown that as the weight of the person increases, the chances of dying does too. Severely obese people (with a BMI of 35-39.9) were 51% more likely to be killed in a collision, while there was an excess risk of 21% chance of dying for obese people with a BMI of 30-34.9 involved in collisions

            Although the studies use American data where the rate of obesity is 1 in 3 adults compared to the UK’s current rate of 1 in 4, the chances of having to attend and rescue an obese person after a RTC in the UK will become more common. Especially as The Department of Transport predicts that the number of cars on English roads alone, estimated 25 million cars in 2010, will rise. And don’t forget, the above study was conducted on data where the obese driver became the fatality. There will be many instances where although non-fatal, the obese victim is a seriously injured driver or a seriously or fatally injured obese passenger.

            Emergency services attending such collisions will need to deal quickly and efficiently with obese victims, as lost minutes will be the difference between life and death. As everyone knows, practice makes perfect. Training to remove people affected by obesity from accident damaged vehicles will result in quicker extraction, meaning the seriously ill victim can get medical attention sooner and recover quicker.

            If you click on the following link, it will take you to a news article about an obese driver trapped in his car for over an hour. The driver suffered a broken ankle in a common rear-end shunt. On the scale of serious injuries, that would be at the lower end of the severity scale. There were 32 emergency personnel attending the collision, many stood around unable to perform their particular skill set until access or room to get access to the driver was provided. That’s an expensive audience. And imagine if those injuries were life-threatening. The time and care afforded this particular person would have been reduced to save him. With the prevalence of obesity in the UK and around the world increasing, as well as the numbers of cars on the road growing, collisions like these will be on the rise too.


Studies Used

Driver's Obesity and Road Crash Risks in the United States (2016). Authors: Bhatti JA, Nathens AB, Redelmeier DA. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26890412

Driver obesity and the risk of fatal injury during traffic collisions (2012). Authors: Thomas M Rice, Motao Zhu. See http://emj.bmj.com/content/early/2013/01/25/emermed-2012-201859



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