Body mass index influence on lap belt position and abdominal injury in frontal motor vehicle crashes

Sydney Schieffer, Casey Costa, Rohin Gawdi, Karan Devane, Isaac N. Ronning, Thomas Hartka, R. Shayn Martin, Bahram Kiani, Anna N. Miller, Fang Chi Hsu, Joel D. Stitzel, Ashley A. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: As obesity rates climb, it is important to study its effects on motor vehicle safety due to differences in restraint interaction and biomechanics. Previous studies have shown that an abdominal seatbelt sign (referred hereafter as seatbelt sign) sustained from motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) is associated with abdominal trauma when located above the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS). This study investigates whether placement of the lap belt causing a seatbelt sign is associated with abdominal organ injury in occupants with increased body mass index (BMI). We hypothesized that higher BMI would be associated with a higher incidence of superior placement of the lap belt to the ASIS level, and a higher incidence of abdominal organ injury. Methods: A retrospective data analysis was performed using 230 cases that met inclusion criteria (belted occupant in a frontal collision that sustained at least one abdominal injury) from the Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) database. Computed tomography (CT) scans were rendered to visualize fat stranding to determine the presence of a seatbelt sign. 146 positive seatbelt signs were visualized. ASIS level was measured by adjusting the transverse slice of the CT to the visualized ASIS level, which was used to determine seatbelt sign location as superior, on, or inferior to the ASIS. Results: Obese occupants had a significantly higher incidence of superior belt placement (52%) vs on-ASIS placement (24%) compared to their normal (27% vs 67%) BMI counterparts (p < 0.001). Notable trends included obese occupants with superior placement having less abdominal organ injury incidence than those with on-ASIS belt placement (42% superior placement vs 55% on-ASIS). In non-obese occupants, there was a higher incidence of abdominal organ injury with superior lap belt placement compared to on-ASIS placement counterparts (Normal BMI: 62% vs 41%, Overweight: 57% vs 43%). Conclusions: In CIREN occupants with abdominal injury, those with obesity are more prone to positioning the lap belt superior to the ASIS, though the impact on abdominal injury incidence remains a key point for continued exploration into how occupant BMI affects crash safety and belt design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-499
Number of pages6
JournalTraffic Injury Prevention
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2022


  • Overweight
  • abdominal injury
  • abdominal seatbelt sign
  • belt stripe
  • obesity
  • subcutaneous adipose tissue


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