Why Collision Risks Increase as Passenger Weight Increases
Obesity has become a national epidemic over the past fifty years. The popularity of high calorie, high fat “convenience foods”—coupled with an increase in vegetative lifestyles and inactivity—means that two out of every three adults are overweight.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, since the 1960s, obesity in the United States has more than doubled and now affects 35.7 percent of Americans. As a result, the prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and liver disease have also drastically increased, placing overweight and obese Americans at the top of the list for weight-related illnesses and death.
If these alarming stats don’t make you question your health, perhaps this will. Aside from the obvious physical and mental benefits of shedding a few pounds, what you may not realize is that a healthy weight can actually increase the likelihood that you’ll survive a car accident.
How Weight Affects Collision Injuries
Obese drivers have higher death rates in cars than individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25. Your BMI is calculated based on your weight and height (in inches). To determine your BMI, divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. If your calculations exceed 25, you’re at a higher risk for the following:
- Accidents caused by health problems. Obese drivers may have health issues that make them less safe on the roads. For example, obesity is the leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea, which can lead to driver fatigue. Because of this, individuals with sleep apnea are at twice the risk of being in a car crash. Overweight drivers can also experience heart palpitations and dizziness more often than healthy drivers.
- Injuries caused by inadequate restraints. Vehicles are tested for safety, but the crash test dummies they use have all been the same size since 1976, the year they were designed. There are no obese crash test dummies, and so cars end up being designed to protect individuals of a “normal” weight.
- Injuries caused by an inability to use restraints properly. Obese drivers may have trouble with seat belts and choose to wear them incorrectly, or not at all. Normal weight drivers are 67 percent more likely to wear seat belts than drivers who were morbidly obese.
If you’re planning to lose weight, hopefully, these statistics will help you stick to your plan and reach your goal. Don’t become discouraged if it takes awhile to see results or feel more comfortable in the driver’s seat. It takes at least 21 consecutive days to form a habit, and even longer to notice a significant change!
But Being Overweight Does Not Mean You Can’t Win a Traffic Accident Injury Case
We’ve heard a few times about car crash victims who have been told by insurance adjusters that they cannot recover for their injury claims because of their weight. That’s totally untrue. By itself, your weight doesn’t mean you were negligent in a collision. It doesn’t give the insurance company or a bad driver immunity from paying for your injuries.
The legal principle here is that, in injury cases, the defendants must take the plaintiffs as they find them. If the person who was hurt happens to be unusually vulnerable to some types of injury, that’s just the way it is. The defendant who is found negligent is responsible for the injuries that actually happened, not the lesser injuries that an average or ideal plaintiff might have suffered.
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