Automakers are adjusting safety devices for obese drivers

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Photo montage of obese drivers and seatbelt connectors.

Obese drivers place more stress on passive restraints during collisions. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Evelyn/Weight-Watch-Blog)

Recent U.S. studies indicate automakers will need to pay more attention to designing automotive safety devices to accommodate obese drivers, reports Wards Auto. In the event of a crash, the growing number of obese and aging drivers find themselves in a situation where weight and/or age pose greater risk to internal organs and bones as force carries the driver into the passive restraint.

As obesity grows, so grows risk in frontal crashes

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data cited by University of Michigan researcher Jonathan Rupp points to a staggering 27 percent obesity rate in the U.S., a figure that is growing by 0.5 to 0.6 percent each year. Rupp even suggests that where self-reported data is concerned, the obesity rate could be as much as 7 percent higher.

The greater number of obese drivers increases the risk of accident-related injuries, particularly where frontal collisions are concerned. Drivers of greater mass place greater stress upon seatbelts and airbags when they are thrown forward during the transfer of crash force. Passive restraint design will have to be improved to accommodate such drivers who face greater risk of ruptured lungs and kidneys from broken bones, as well as broken bones in key areas like the pelvis.

Bigger, stiffer airbags and wider, stronger seatbelts with belt slack-reducing technology will be necessary, says Rupp. Inflatable seatbelts that spread impact force is one option under consideration by automakers.

Aging drivers pose another risk

Census data indicates that the number of people in the U.S. aged 65 and over will rise from 40 million today to 87 million by 2050. Among those, it is forecast that the number of people aged 80 and older will spike significantly. This means that there will likely be many more older drivers on the road. As fatalities per 100 miles driven skyrocket as drivers exceed the age of 70 – particularly in frontal crashes – the need for better passive restraint is underscored, but also the need for continued advancement of warning technology that affects braking systems when collisions are imminent.


Wards Auto

Obesity and a general increase in injury risk

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