Carrying a few extra pounds? Then you're 80 per cent more likely to die in a car crash, according to research from the University of California.
According to the study published in the Emergency Medical Journal in conjunction with the University of West Virginia, obese women are more likely to be at risk than men.
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The research, which analysed more than 3,000 pairs of drivers, adds that underweight drivers are also at risk. Obesity is classed in the report as people that fit into World Health Organisation obesity category III.
The cause, according to a specialist journal, is due to cars being manufactured for people of a 'normal' weight, and not for the obese.
The study, based on U.S. crash data, found that the obese are thrown further forward in the event of a collision. Their extra tissue stops the seat belt from tightening immediately against the pelvis, putting them at greater risk of damage.
The study underlines that more education is needed to improve seatbelt use amongst obese motorists. It also recommends research 'to understand the potential role of comorbidities in injury outcomes'.
That recommendation could mean the end of the conventional seatbelt as we know it, with the study highlighting the problems found in traditional belts.
"Obese cadavers had significantly more forward movement away from the vehicle seat before the seat belt engaged the pelvis owing to additional soft tissue that prevents the belt from fitting close to the pelvis when the cadavers were in the driving position."
The article's authors add: "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 study also suggests that obese drivers are also more at risk due to underlying health issues.
Written by John Meadowcroft.