If you're driving somewhere Labor Day weekend, the high price of gasoline is sure to put a dent in your travel budget.

Of course, we have all heard of ways to boost the fuel economy of our cars and trucks: Avoid abrupt starts and stops, drive no faster than 60 mph and get rid of excess weight in cars. They're helpful suggestions, no doubt.

But it's that last part — get rid of excess weight — that's easy to do, and it goes beyond merely emptying the junk in the trunk.

What if I told you that losing weight can increase your fuel economy?

This seems obvious, once you think about it. After all, the more a car and its occupants weigh, the more fuel needed to move it. But how much more may surprise you.

According to a 2006 study by Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Illinois, the United States consumes an extra billion gallons of gasoline annually due to obesity. And for each pound on average that we gain as a nation, an estimated 39 million gallons of additional fuel are needed to cart us around.

Given that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, that's fuel for thought.

Adults who have a body mass index of 30 or higher are considered obese; 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.

To figure out your BMI, you'll need to crack out the calculator. Multiply your height in inches by your height in inches. Now divide your weight by that number. Then, multiply that answer by 703.

Depressed? It gets worse.

According to a study by the CDC, as weight increases, seat belt use decreases. Their study found that only 70 percent of extremely obese people say that they always wear a seat belt, compared with 83 percent of normal-weight people.

It's little wonder larger folks find seat belts uncomfortable. Federal safety standards state that seat belts only need accommodate a 215-pound man.

But should a severe car crash occur, a moderately obese driver faces a 21 percent increased risk of death, while the morbidly obese face a 56 percent increased risk of dying, according to a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

But if you think being skinny will save you, it won't. The same study found that normal-weight drivers are more likely to die in a severe crash than slightly overweight drivers — those with a BMI of 25 to 29.9.

Hmm. Maybe I need to gain a few pounds, just to be safe.

Latest Videos

Covering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months