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Obesity and motor vehicle deaths in the USA: a state-level analysis


  • Walter O. Simmons
  • Thomas J. Zlatoper


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to empirically investigate the linkage between obesity and motor vehicle deaths. Design/methodology/approach - The paper specifies a model that explains highway fatalities, which accounts for obesity in its set of potential determinants. State-level data are utilized in this paper. The values for all variables are for the year 2005. They correspond to 46 of the contiguous states for all measures. The model is estimated by multiple regressions. Findings - The paper finds that the motor vehicle death rate (fatalities per million vehicle miles) has a statistically significant positive relationship with the percentage of the population that is obese. The death rate also has significant positive associations with the percentage of elderly male drivers, per capita alcohol consumption, and temperature; and it has significant negative relationships with per capita income, the percentage of elderly female drivers, seat belt use, and precipitation. Practical implications - The estimates of this paper have various policy implications. For example, the findings pertaining to occupant body weight imply that efforts leading to a decline in the prevalence of obesity will also lower the highway death risk. Results suggest that obesity increases this death risk by contributing to more accidents. If so, measures that reduce obesity-related unsafe driving behaviors (e.g. increased chance of falling asleep while driving) could save lives. Originality/value - The paper adds to the research on the relationship between highway safety and obesity. The paper's unique contributions include estimating the linkage between obesity and motor vehicle deaths by regression analysis on US state-level data for 2005 within a model that controls for economic conditions and other considerations such as driver and passenger characteristics, locational factors, government regulations, and weather conditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Walter O. Simmons & Thomas J. Zlatoper, 2010. "Obesity and motor vehicle deaths in the USA: a state-level analysis," Journal of Economic Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 37(5), pages 544-556, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:jespps:v:37:y:2010:i:5:p:544-556

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