Texas Law and News Blog

Why are Cars Only Safe for Skinny People?

The American Journal of Emergency Medicine (AJEM) published an article on January 22, 2013 revealing that overweight drivers are at least 20% more likely to die in a car accident.   Drivers who are obese (with a BMI of 30 or higher) are 80% more likely to die in a car accident.  Interestingly, the more obese a person is the more likely they are to die in a car accident.  While a small percentage of these deaths could be attributed to other underlying health problems caused by obesity, one must also consider the possibility that vehicle manufacturers are not making cars that are safe for overweight individuals.

Obese man with seat beltAccording to the Food Research and Action Center, two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese.  The AJEM article suggests that seat belts do not hold overweight or obese people in their seats, which can cause them to be ejected in a violent crash.  Most seats and seat belts are made for people of normal weight.  However, in the United States normal weight and average weight are two completely different things.  When the lap belt is not securely against the pelvic region because of extra tissue, it cannot secure the driver properly.

Ideally those who are overweight should try to get down to a healthy weight through diet and exercise so that they can live long, healthy lives.  However, the reality is that many Americans just aren’t getting enough exercise.  Also, many of us are not making the effort to find healthy food options over unhealthy but convenient ones.  But, should overweight individuals have to worry about losing weight to stay safe in their cars?  I don’t think so.  And if you’re the lawyer of a family who lost an overweight loved one in a crash, you would start to consider blaming the car’s manufacturer after reading these statistics.

Car manufacturers must provide an option for feet on a scaleoverweight drivers to makes their card just as safe for them as they are for people of “normal” weight in a car accident.  I’m not saying it should be a law, but I’m also not saying that it is fair given the disproportionate amount of overweight drivers here.    People are paying anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 dollars for a new vehicle, and on average will keep the car for 10 years.  Shouldn’t there be an option for the seating positions or seat belt to make the car safer for these people?

Car manufacturers are missing the boat on this issue.  This study’s findings revealed a market that nobody knew existed.  If at least one car manufacturer starts targeting overweight drivers by offering safety features to better protect them, they will suddenly be targeting an unknown market niche comprising the majority of the adult American population.

Product manufacturers should also take notice of these statistics.  With car makers specs available to everyone online, there is a huge opportunity here to design and sell kits to retrofit cars with safety equipment meant for overweight drivers.  After all, most adults in the United States are overweight and many cannot afford a new car.  Food for thought.