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AUSTIN, Texas, January 7, 2012 (ENS) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a new study showing that driving while obese raises the risk of fatal accidents by 17 percent, while alcohol was not an issue.
“Fatigue, poor control and poor situational awareness all played a role in fatal accidents resulting from these factors,” said Dr. Jeffrey B. Smith, director of the NHTSA’s Center for Auto Safety. “This is a key finding that supports recommendations to improve crash safety by encouraging safe driving behaviors for obese drivers.”
The new study by NHTSA, along with several published peer-reviewed studies, found a significant relationship between obesity in adults and fatal accidents.
When the study included 532,000 drivers, who were all under the age of 16, the estimated risk of a fatality was about seven percent higher for drivers in this category than for the rest of the population. The study is consistent with other studies that have shown greater risk associated with obesity in adults, such as being overweight.
About one-third of fatal crashes in the United States are the result of alcohol and speed. Other factors that contribute to fatality risk include driver fatigue, poor physical skills, driving alone and speeding.
The study found that one percent increase in fatality risk is equivalent to about 5,000 fatalities per year – about one-half of the 876 million deaths annually in the United States. To put that into perspective, a person is killed by traffic accident about once every eight minutes.
NHTSA and more than 150 partners, from governments and nongovernmental organizations to the auto industry, transportation agencies and highway safety research groups, produced the report, Fatality Risk of Fat Bicyclists. This study will be used to expand the data set to also include drivers of other body sizes.
A full report detailing the study’s methodology and methodology data is available for public review at http://www.nhtsa.gov/casi.
“Fatality risk is an important consideration that our organizations take seriously. It is important for the NHTSA to ensure the data gathered in this study is accurate and reliable,” said Mark Rose, NHTSA senior scientist for the Center for Transportation Safety.
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