Plump my ride: Cars get fatter

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IOL mot pic oct24 Ford Prefect Wieck 1953 Ford Prefect was1450mm wide.

It's a growing problem - as the human waistline expands, so do our vehicles. Typical family cars are now more than 300mm wider than they were in the 1950s, and almost double the weight, as manufacturers struggle to find room for chunkier thighs and larger bottoms.

In 1953, a Ford Prefect was 1450mm wide with a 460mm long seat cushion, while a 2011 Ford Focus is 1850mm wide with a 580mm long seat cushion.

Experts warn that almost half of British men could be obese by 2030, with four in ten women also predicted to be overweight.

Keen to keep larger drivers and passengers in the comfort they have become accustomed to, vehicle producers are now planning to reconfigure the next generation of cars.

It is a move that has been dubbed 'plump my ride' in an echo of the long-running television show Pimp My Ride.

Last week, BMW recruited 800 volunteers for a study to see how obesity affects mobility while driving, with the results influencing everything from the size and spacing of the pedals to the width of the door opening.

IOL mot pic oct24 Ford Focus .

BMW's Ralf Kaiser said: “We want to find out how obesity limits range of motion and how our vehicles can adapt to changing needs.”

Other manufacturers are also looking at ways of improving their design for larger customers.

In the past ten years, Honda has widened its seats by almost 50mm to accommodate bigger behinds.

Mercedes has plans to strengthen the grab handles above doors to support weightier passengers, while the steering wheel in some Porsches now rises when the engine is switched off, to allow drivers more room when they enter and exit the car.

Many current models already features gadgets that make life easier for bigger drivers, such as blind spot warning systems and rear-view cameras, which allow drivers who find it hard to look over their shoulder to see obstacles on a screen instead.

But it's not just cars that are getting bigger - in 2007, crash test dummies were made fatter.

IOL mot pic oct24 Crash Test Dummy 2 EuroNCAP crash test dummies now include one that stands 1.85 metres tall and weighs 100kg. .

The models, which are used to assess car safety standards, had remained largely unchanged since the 1950s. Then, the standard dummy was created to resemble the average 80kg American male.

But to make the crash risks more realistic, the independent body which tests most European cars also began using a dummy weighing 100kg, that stands almost 1.85m tall.

Ambulance fleets are also having to be revamped to deal with larger patients. Yorkshire Ambulance Service alone has spent nearly £10 million (R128 million) on specialist vehicles to transport obese patients over the past five years. - Daily Mail


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