Health at any size certainly doesn’t make sense if obese people are more likely than slimmer people to die in a car accident. This is yet one more blow to the idea that any size body can be a healthy body.

This report is in the online Emergency Medicine Journal (Jan. 2013).

Those who believe that obesity provides protective “cushioning” in a car accident are mistaken.

However, the report points out the idea of car design possibly playing a role — cars are not typically designed to be ideal for obese people.

The researchers relied upon data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System for 1996 to 2008.

For this investigation, over 57,000 car accidents were analyzed, and the researchers honed in on incidents involving two-passenger vehicles in which crash impact was the most harmful aspect of the accident.

Other details were also considered such as available data on age, weight, airbag deployment and seatbelt use.

Health at Every Size Doesn’t Apply to Car Accidents

The findings: Death risk went up the more obese the driver was. The World Health Organization classifies obesity as level I, II or III.

Level I drivers were 21 percent more likely to succumb; level II 51 percent more likely; and level III 80 percent more likely to die in a car accident than normal-weight drivers. This association was stronger for women.

The Health at Every Size Issue Applies to Underweight

The study also showed that underweight men were more likely to die in a car wreck than men of normal weight.

No major differences were found in type of collision, type of vehicle or seatbelt use. However, about one-third of the drivers who succumbed were not properly buckled up.


The researchers note other studies that show that the lower body of an obese person is projected forward upon the impact before the seatbelt engages at the pelvis.

The excess fat prevents the seatbelt from fitting snuggly, and the upper body gets held back. It seems as though with excess fat, the seatbelt would fit more snuggly, but the report indeed says otherwise.

Additionally, obese drivers are more likely to have underlying medical problems which, logically, would contribute to greater death risk.

The paper also states: “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 g forces of a vehicular collision don’t care how much an obese driver embraces her body.