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TEST - Does Obesity Provide Cushioning During a Car Crash?

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posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 12:57 AM

Came across this article today. Must say, I have never even thought of whether Obese people could fare better from a car accident than normal weight people.

Some people believe obesity provides a cushioning effect in car crashes, with the extra padding helping to protect people against severe trauma. A few researchers set out to see if that’s true, using crash test dummies in simulated frontal crashes

But they didn’t use just any crash test dummies. The researchers used three obese and five normal-weight cadavers, since, according to the study, obese crash test dummies don’t exist. Who knew?The dummies were put into a simulated mid-size car that crashed at about 30 mph, to see how they responded to the force.

The obese test subjects, who wore seat belts but had no air bags, had greater maximum forward pitch than their non-obese counterparts before being stopped by the seat belt.Also, parts of their body experienced different trajectories–the obese dummies’ hips slid forward more, allowing their torsos to not fall forward as much.

That may protect obese people’s heads from hitting the inside of the car, but may also cause more injury to the ribs and lungs, since the load is concentrated on the lower part of the thorax, closer to the abdomen. Since the hips move forward more, the lower extremities might also be more vulnerable.

So no, obese people don’t seem to have a definite advantage in car crashes. In another study, obese men had worse outcomes in sustaining upper body injuries in car crashes versus normal-weight men.

So buckle up, everyone.The study, done by researchers at the University of Virginia and Autoliv Inc. in Sweden, appears in the April issue of the journal Obesity


So there we have it, obese people do not fare better than normal weights! Interesting results. Here's me thinking the extra padding would have helped a bit!


posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 01:01 AM
My elder brother was in a relatively minor accident, hit from the side his car had damage to the passenger's side and he would have escaped with no injuries, but, the airbag went off on the driver's side and he is quite overweight, the space between him and the steering wheel is not much at all, anyway the impact of the airbag broke several ribs in his lower rib cage, and he had such terrible bruises on his stomach and chest they lasted for weeks. I would say had he been smaller, he would not have had any injury.

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 01:42 AM
What a waste of money.
Did anybody actually think being fat made them safer in a wreck?

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 01:48 AM
reply to post by MPad556

I guess the test sends out a good message that everyone should wear their seatbelt.

Maybe more fat people were caught not wearing them?

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 02:05 AM
reply to post by grantbeed

Haha not sure about that. Guess we need a new study to see if fat people wear a seat belt less often than skinny people.

Yes its a good message to wear a seat belt but its still a silly study to me.
Seems to me that there are other things more important in life that we should concentrate on other than seeing if being fat protects you in a wreck.

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 02:10 AM
reply to post by MPad556

Maybe a couple of guys at the Crash Test Centre had a bit of a bet on with each other and while they were not busy they gave it a shot!

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 02:22 AM
No matter how big you are a hit to head will be the end of you. So being obese could get you more internal damage although it appears you do get some minimal advantage.

But in all honestly it's probably such a minute advantage and not worth the extra cheeseburgers. Whats the use of surviving all these car crashes when you die 45 because of clogged arteries.

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 02:34 AM
The conclusions of this experiment seem correct as an obese person has more mass moving forward than a small person.

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 03:01 AM
reply to post by Happyfeet

Absolutely right. There's a slight accelleration offset for the shortened distance to impact for the larger body, but essentially the mass overcomes that. Given the obese body will have different hydrostatic qualities than a slender or muscled body, the physical damage may not be proportionate to the force of impact.


posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 03:26 AM
Whether obesity can cushion the fatal blow that might come with an automobile accident, the statistics suggest that the threat of obesity decreasing longevity, far outweighs the threat of dying in an automobile accident. Consider this:

Most studies show an increase in mortality rates associated with obesity. Individuals who are obese have a significantly increased risk of death from all causes, compared with healthy weight individuals (BMI 18.5 to 24.9). The increased risk varies by cause of death, and most of this increased risk is due to cardiovascular causes. Obesity is associated with over 112,000 excess deaths due to cardiovascular disease, over 15,000 excess deaths due to cancer, and over 35,000 excess deaths due to non-cancer, non-cardiovascular disease causes per year in the U.S. population, relative to healthy-weight individuals.

162,000 deaths each year that were indirectly caused by their own obesity. Compare that with this:

Car Crash Stats: There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. The financial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Billion dollars. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States -- one death every 13 minutes.

115 deaths every day is roughly 42,000 deaths per year, compared with the 162,000 from obesity. Further, two of the three chronic illnesses mentioned as being causes of death precipitated by obesity, are heart disease and cancer which are the top two leading causes of death in the U.S. each year, compared to accidents which is the fifth leading cause of death, and of the 121,599 deaths caused by accident, less than half of those deaths were due to automobile accidents. It also seems that research suggest that life expectancy exceeds driving expectancy, there is research that also suggest that obesity threatens to cut the overall life expectancy in the U.S.

The numbers suggest that it is safer to drive while in good health than while obese. Considering that part of staying in good health means a disciplined routine of exercise, and given exercise usually means not driving, the more one exercises the less time they are driving, although it could also be assumed that the more obese a person becomes the less likely they are to drive as well since most vehicles are not all that obesity friendly and even walking to a car to drive it can become to exhausting for the morbidly obese.
But, while the morbidly obese may limit their driving time due to their physicality, those who limit their driving time simply because they have elected to walk or run to where they are going, are usually better off for it.

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 06:38 AM
they'd probably just die of heart problems, also weaker bones and less muscle mass...and also cars are made to human specifications, if they are off the norm, that could also cause problems with the seat, suspension (provided its a small car, lol), and especially the airbag.

the obese are always more likely to die.

posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 08:10 AM
Cadavers would not show one of the important crash issues: after the car stops, and the body stops, the internal organs stop. A cause of death even at slow speeds like 35mph is the aortic arch snapping off.

Even suppose that a person survives. What about the rescue crew extracting the person from a wreck? Delays and difficulty there could also put someone at risk.

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