There is much focus on car seat safety but protecting a child starts earlier than that. It starts during the pregnancy. What is the best way to protect an unborn child in a vehicle? Should a pregnant woman wear a seat belt? What about driving, is that safe? And how about third party products, are they necessary?
Safety of a pregnant women in a car should always be taken seriously:
Studies reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association, states that “Motor vehicle crashes account for four of five deaths that occur among unborn babies of pregnant women who experience trauma”, another article in the same journal, states that “Information and Research Needed to Help Reduce Risks to Women and Foetus From Motor Vehicle Injury During Pregnancy”
Fortunately, your unborn child can be kept safe with just a few simple steps.
- Always wear a seat belt in the vehicle
- Move the front seat as far back as possible.
- Make sure your breastbone is at least 10 inches from the steering wheel.
- Move the seat back as your abdomen grows to keep as much distance as possible between the steering wheel and the airbag while still operating your vehicle safely.
- Keep the lap belt below your belly and the shoulder belt between your breasts.
- Be a passenger if you can.
Volvo, a world leader in safety research for many years, have published some excellent research. Please download a short PDF file from Volvo here with some basic information about how to best protect your unborn child.
There is plenty of misinformation out there making decisions more difficult. Most common misinformation is that seatbelt and airbag pose a large risk to a pregnant woman. Studies have shown that seat belts and airbags can pose a risk to pregnant woman but “ it’s almost always because the seatbelt wasn’t worn at all, was worn incorrectly or the pregnant driver was positioned too close to the airbag.”
The best and simplest way of protecting a fetus is to protect the woman. Leading cause of death for unborn babies is the death of pregnant women in crashes.
“The primary way to protect the fetus is to protect the driver,” says Lotta Jakobsson, a biomechanics and injury-reduction specialist for Volvo in Sweden.
Pregnant women who don’t wear a seat belt and sit very close to the airbag are putting their unborn child at the most risk.
Seat belt should be worn with lap belt under, never across, belly and shoulder belt between breasts. Make sure your seat belt is snug, not slack. Research has shown that wearing a seat belt correctly almost eliminate the increased risk from an airbag in a crash. Your breastbone should be at least 10 inches away from steering wheel to minimize injury.
As your tummy grows, move your seat further back while driving. Most cars today have adjustable steering wheel, both height and length, which make reaching easier. Some cars today also have adjustable pedals which may help shorter women sit at a correct distance while still driving safely.
If you can, be a passenger. That way you can push the seat as far back as possible from the airbag. Riding in the back seat is also recommended.