Obese Drivers at High Risk in Cars

A new study by the Emergency Medicine Journal finds that overweight drivers are between 20 and 80 times more likely to die in car crashes than individuals with a "normal" body mass index below 30. As if we needed more incentive stay away from those extra cupcakes and re-up our gym memberships this year.

The theory is that overweight individuals have more medical issues and complications, such as heart disease and diabetes, and may be less able to pull through difficult surgeries following a car crash. In addition, proper seat belt fit for optimal restraint in the event of a crash is much more difficult for an obese person.

The study's researchers note that crash-test dummies only represent non-obese drivers and urge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to consider modifying the crash-test dummies to be more consistent with the wide range of drivers' weights. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.7% of the population is obese.

Don't get too aggressive with your workout routine, however. Underweight individuals (with a body mass index under 18.5) are at higher risk for death in car crashes as well. In a crash, they might have additional health complications due to their low weight, and they lack extra padding to help absorb the force of impact.

Maybe just one cupcake would be OK.

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By Kristin Varela | January 23, 2013 | Comments (13)



Oh I see, so don't get too fat, but don't get too skinny! What wonderful and innovative advice!


I suppose if you put any obese person in one of those tiny sardine cans that pose as cars these days you could get unintended consequences, like being crushed to death.

Ditto for skinny people!

But if you choose what you drive carefully, like in the bigger the better, like a half-ton truck or a Grand Cherokee, or a Suburban, and then collide with a sardine can, see who comes out the worst.

Alex Blanks

Actually, bigger vehicles are rarely, if ever, safer to drive. You have less maneuverability (and prevention is key in most things), as well as a significantly higher risk of rollover. And you're more likely to kill the person you hit along with yourself.

Chris Lewis

Most people are going to have a really hard time exercising to a BMI of 18.5.


One of my customers is a surgeon and he often speaks of how much more difficult even minor surgeries are on overweight people. Healing takes longer as well. So it ain't just the crash.....your doctors are going to have a harder time putting you back together, AND you will heal more slowly.

Doug Rand

Well I hope they don't adjust the crash test dummies to represent a heavier weight.
My thinking is if they make the cars safer for heavier people then they may be less safe for lighter people.
Just like seat belts and air bags are not safe for children now, they will be less safe for healthy people if they make this adjustment.
Why should people of a healthy weight pay the price?
Seems like the wrong solution to the problem.
I am not at all trying to offend obese people, I am actually borderline myself.


These sardine cans you speak of usually get better crash ratings than the heavy gas guzzlers you think are a better option. If people like you didn't drive those ridiculously over-sized (for overweight people) vehicles then smaller cars would be EVEN safer. The problem is the buying smaller more efficient cars...the problem is the people who buy the giant gas guzzlers and clog streets, parking lots & create more pollution. Your sollution=fail.

Don't forget that obese people have heavier body parts including extremities. In an accident, this creates more loading force on the joints and spine. An obese person might not necessarily have muscles strong enough to overcome this.


Alex & Josh, you guys have a great time in your sardine cans, since you appear to be advocates of "smaller is better and safer."

IMO that BS! Just plain old misinformed BS! I hope you never test your misconceived notion or have it happen to someone you love.

I'm not obese and neither is my wife, but I still prefer that me and mine drive in something bigger and heavier than your sardine cans.

No one ever argues the right of way of a huge vehicle. Sardine cans get out of the way of larger vehicles, ANY larger vehicle, or risk testing the crush-zones of their passenger cage. That is not an appealing prospect for me. I'm over six feet tall.

And you know what? Millions upon millions of people must agree with that philosophy since they make a pickup truck, large sedan, minivan or SUV their preferred mode of transportation.

The next time you're out and about check out the kid seats in all the trucks, SUVs and minivans to see what I mean.

Check especially in Tahoes and Suburbans, very popular with discerning parents who want to protect their young.

Best seller is the F150 truck; best selling sedan the Camry; best selling SUV, any and all of them.

We own three vehicles, a 2012 Grand Cherokee 4X4, a 2011 Tundra 5.7 DoubleCab Longbed, and our old 2008 Highlander 4X4. I'll take those three vehicles over any sardine can, anytime, anywhere.

There are a few sardine cans in my family, like the 2011 Elantra we bought for our grand daughter's HS grad gift, and I hope that she never test your misinformed opinion of how safe sardine cans are, should she ever get nailed by an SUV or truck on her way to or from college in Las Cruces, NM, where trucks and SUVs rule.

Obese people would explode internally in most major collisions in sardine cans since there isn't an airbag or SRS that's designed for anyone even remotely obese. Mildly chubby, maybe. But obese? No way, and most Americans are obese! Many of them morbidly so!

The sheer mass of even mildly obese people would overwhelm any SRS and result in internal injuries. Something's gotta give and it is always the human body or parts within.

Protect yourself! Protect the ones you love!! Drive something heavy and very large.

It's better to roll over in a large vehicle than it is to roll over in a sardine can and get killed by the lack of room inside. Don't try this at home since it would probably kill you.


i need to buy a 1980-1985 dodge caravan 918-336-2639


This has been such an interesting read. More reasons for me to show to my least health conscious friends on the importance of staying fit.

been looking for a good blog about a reliable auto mechanic service so I’m glad I found yours. Good stuff!

I'll take those three vehicles over any sardine can, anytime, anywhere.

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