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Emerg Med J. 2014 Jan;31(1):9-12. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2012-201859. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

Driver obesity and the risk of fatal injury during traffic collisions.

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Division of Environmental Health Sciences, Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, University of California, Berkeley, , California, USA.



Few studies have looked at how obesity affects injury outcomes among vehicle occupants involved in traffic collisions.


To estimate the association of obesity with death risk among drivers of passenger vehicles aged ≥16 and to examine effect modification by driver sex, driver seat belt use, vehicle type and collision type.


We conducted a matched-pair cohort study using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. WHO body mass index (BMI) categories were calculated. Data were analysed using conditional Poisson regression.


Estimated risk ratios (RRs) were slightly raised for underweight drivers (RR=1.19, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.63). RR increased with higher BMI categories and were 1.21 (0.98 to 1.49) for BMI 30-34.9, 1.51 (1.10 to 2.08) for BMI 35-39.9 and 1.80 (1.15 to 2.84) for BMI ≥40. Estimated BMI effects varied by gender. We found no meaningful variation across levels of vehicle type, collision type or seat belt use.


Findings from this study suggest that obese vehicle drivers are more likely to die from traffic collision-related injuries than non-obese occupants involved in the same collision. Education is needed to improve seat belt use among obese people, as is research to understand the potential role of comorbidities in injury outcomes.


accidental; death/mortality; epidemiology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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