"Obese occupants are up to 78 percent more likely to die in a car crash than an average weight driver," Humanetics President and CEO Christopher O'Connor toldCrash Test Technology International, a trade publication. "Having a body mass index of 35-39.9 percent increases your risk of death by 51 percent."
O'Connor said Humanetics is making an obese crash test dummy that weighs about 271 pounds and has a BMI of 35 that can measure belt and airbag loads generated during crashes. He said a prototype dummy was used in August to evaluate sleds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as obese a person who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 203 pounds or more, with a BMI of 30 or higher.
In an interview with CNN, O'Connor said the reason for the increased fatality rate is the way we get fat.
"We get fat in our middle range," he said. "And we get out of position in a typical seat."
Traditional crash test dummies weigh about 167 pounds, and automakers must use the dummies to prove their vehicles are safe before being sold in the U.S. and Europe.