Make us your home page
Autos | Weight

Obese drivers use more gasoline, are at higher risk in crash

We have all heard of ways to boost the fuel economy of our cars and trucks: Avoid abrupt starts and stops, drive no faster than 60 mph and get rid of excess weight in cars. They're helpful suggestions, no doubt. But it's that last part — get rid of excess weight — that's easy to do, and it goes beyond merely emptying the junk in the trunk. • What if I told you that losing weight can increase your fuel economy?

This seems obvious, once you think about it. After all, the more a car and its occupants weigh, the more fuel needed to move it. But how much more may surprise you.

According to a 2006 study by Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Illinois, the United States consumes an extra billion gallons of gasoline annually due to obesity. And for each pound on average that we gain as a nation, an estimated 39 million gallons of additional fuel are needed to cart us around.

Given that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, that's fuel for thought.

Adults who have a body mass index of 30 or higher are considered obese; 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. To figure out your BMI, you'll need to crack out the calculator. Multiply your height in inches by your height in inches. Now divide your weight by that number. Then, multiply that answer by 703.

Depressed? It gets worse.

According to a study by the CDC, as weight increases, seat belt use decreases. Their study found that only 70 percent of extremely obese people say they always wear a seat belt, compared with 83 percent of normal-weight people.

It's little wonder larger folks find seat belts uncomfortable. Federal safety standards state that seat belts only need accommodate a 215-pound man.

But should a severe car crash occur, a moderately obese driver faces a 21 percent increased risk of death, while the morbidly obese face a 56 percent increased risk of dying, according to a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

But if you think being skinny will save you, it won't. The same study found that normal-weight drivers are more likely to die in a severe crash than slightly overweight drivers — those with a BMI of 25 to 29.9.

Hmm. Maybe I need to gain a few pounds, just to be safe.

Obese drivers use more gasoline, are at higher risk in crash 09/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 8:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Virginian-Pilot.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo in Parkshore Plaza on the market for $1.5 million. {Courtesy of Amy Lamb/Native House Photography]
  2. Trigaux: Task now is for Water Street Tampa to build an identity


    Adios, VinikVille! Hello Water Street Tampa.

    An aerial rendering of the $3 billion redevelopment project that Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners plan on 50-plus acres around Amalie Arena.
[Rendering courtesy of Strategic Property Partners]
  3. Unlicensed contractor accused of faking death triggers policy change at Pinellas construction licensing board

    Local Government

    The unlicensed contractor accused of faking his death to avoid angry homeowners has triggered an immediate change in policy at the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  4. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena


    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  5. Rick Scott appoints longtime ally Jimmy Patronis as Florida CFO

    State Roundup
    Rick Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis (background) as CFO. [STEVE BOUSQUET | Tampa Bay Times]