Obesity a Significant Risk for Death in Car Crashes

According to a study from UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation and Research Education Center (SafeTREC), obese drivers are up to 78 percent more likely to die in a car crash than normal-weight drivers. This means that, given the rising rate of obesity in the U.S., the ability of vehicles to protect overweight drivers will play an increasingly important role in the realm of public health.

Specifically, researchers reviewed information on crash statistics managed by the National Highway Traffic Administration, looking at correlations to height and weight statistics. These statistics revealed that, among the obese, the higher the body mass index (BMI), the more likely a driver was to die in a crash. Drivers with a BMI of 30 to 35 had a 21 percent increase in risk of death; a BMI of 35 to 40 had a 51 percent increase; and those with a BMI above 40 were 81 percent more like to die than those of normal weight in similar crashes. Most alarmingly, these risks remained in spite of drivers wearing seat belts when the airbag deployed, and were greater for women than men.

Adjustments to Vehicles

As statistics reveal that car crashes are more deadly for the overweight, car manufacturers will need to find a way to ensure proper interaction between seat belts and people, regardless of their weight. Specifically, it is crucial that seat belts be placed as close to one’s pelvis as possible to reduce the risk of injury in an accident, and that obese drivers be prevented from moving in their seat during a collision prior to a seat belt halting their movement. One company has taken note of this issue and started to develop overweight crash test dummies in response.

Does Obesity Affect Fault in Car Accidents?

Pennsylvania follows the theory of comparative negligence, whereby those involved in an auto accident are assigned a percentage of fault, and this can affect recovery in a case. This also applies to settlements; defendants are responsible for their share of the fault rather than being responsible for the whole settlement (in general), based on percentages of fault.

Regardless of your BMI, if you were not at fault in a car accident, you should not have to share in the percentage of negligence, or fault, for the accident. However, in a case against a driver who was negligent and responsible for the accident, the defense representing that driver may try to argue (and prove) that your injuries would have been less severe if you were not overweight, thus although you cannot be labeled as “negligent” for the purposes of fault in a car accident, it could affect your ability to recover for your medical injuries.


Solnick & Associates, LLC

At Solnick & Associates, LLC, we have years of experience representing victims of car crashes and dealing with all the many complicated factors that can affect insurance claims, settlements, and cases. Contact our lawyers today; we will work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected under the law. It is important that you act quickly, as Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations, limiting your time to bring a personal injury claim after the accident.