Could truck drivers’ body mass index (BMI) be a factor in their safety on the road?
Severely obese truck drivers are 54% more likely to cause traffic accidents during their first two years on the job than their slimmer counterparts, according to a study conducted at the University of Michigan.
Researchers only looked at preventable truck accidents, meaning those that could have resulted from negligence on the part of the truck driver. Even when the research team isolated the most serious crashes, they found that most obese drivers were still 50% more likely to be involved in accidents.
Study leader Stephen Burks theorized that obstructive sleep apnea is most likely to blame for the increased accident risk. People with sleep apnea stop breathing at times while they sleep, decreasing the amount of oxygen that reaches their brains. They experience poorer sleep and have less ability to be alert or attentive during the day. Sleepy drivers are a major hazard on the road.
What Defines Severely Obese?
A person’s BMI is calculated by comparing height to weight, and an index of 35 or higher is considered “severely” obese. For example, a man who is 6’ tall and weighs 260 pounds has a BMI of 35.3, which falls in the range of severely obese. However, simple BMI calculators fail to take into account muscle mass.
If you are a truck driver, and you believe your obesity may be a hindrance to your driving safety, visit your primary care physician to learn about how to live a healthier lifestyle.