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The Dangers of Seat Belt Submarining for Pregnant Women

seat belt submarining for pregnant women

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Every time you get into your car you run the risk of being involved in a car accident. Seat belts can mitigate the risk of injury associated with a crash by 50%, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC). They are important to use to keep you in the vehicle during a crash. They can also be responsible for inflicting serious, and sometimes even fatal, injuries, especially to pregnant women and their babies.

One such way seat belts can harm you is through what is called seat belt “submarining”.

seat belt submarining putting on lap portion

What is Seat Belt Submarining?

Seat belt submarining occurs when the positioning of the lap belt shifts from laying across the occupant’s hips to laying across the soft tissue of the abdomen. This can happen during a crash as the crash energy pulls the body down and forward and the seat belt moves upward on the belly.

When this happens, the abdomen absorbs the harsh force of impact from the restraint. Tests have shown that a collision or abrupt braking can cause the seat belt to exert up to 2 Tons of force on the passenger. This can lead to:

  • Damage and bleeding of internal organs
  • Pelvic injuries
  • Bruising
  • Spinal cord injuries

Submarining can happen in both low and high-speed collisions. In some high speed crashes, occupants have been known to be ejected from the vehicle when submarining occurs.

Seat belt submarining poses a risk to anyone. The risk of submarining in one reason to not “graduate” a child out of a booster seat too early. And this risk of seat belt submarining is magnified for pregnant women. Not only must they worry about their own health and well-being, but also that of their unborn child.

While pregnant women may only experience minor bruising to their tummy, the fetus is subject to serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries.

The Effects of Car Accidents on Pregnant Women

Car accidents are stressful for anyone, but especially for pregnant women who are worried about their own health as well as the health of their unborn child(ren).

safest pregnancy seat belt positioner

Studies have shown that more than 170,000 pregnant women are in car crashes each year. This causes thousands of lost pregnancies and injuries to unborn babies. According to the CDC, motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death and injury among pregnant women.

The negative side effects of car crashes are greatly magnified for pregnant women and their unborn children.

When involved in a car accident, pregnant mothers can experience injuries such as:

  • Preterm labor – this is when the mother enters into labor prematurely, before reaching 37 weeks of pregnancy
  • Placental abruption – this means the placenta becomes separated from the uterus and cuts off oxygen and food supply to the baby
  • Premature Rupture of the Membranes (PROM) – this means that the tissue layers that surround the baby, known as the amniotic sac, prematurely rupture
  • Miscarriage – this is when the baby dies in the mother’s womb prior to 20 weeks of pregnancy
  • Stillbirth – this is when the baby dies in the mother’s womb after more than 20 weeks of pregnancy

These conditions are especially dire for the unborn baby, but they can also cause life-threatening conditions for the expectant mother. Many of these injuries can be the consequence of seat belt submarining.

Are Typical Seat Belts Designed for Pregnant Women?

Seat belts are a great tool to keep you safe while traveling by car. And when worn properly, they can save your life in a crash. However, engineers designed seat belts with the ‘average-sized’ man in mind. This means people who do not fit into the average description may run into some safety issues.

Due to the size and shape of their bellies, pregnant women do not fit into the average description. This causes them to struggle with comfort and proper placement of seat belts. Pregnant women are also at higher risk of experiencing seat belt submarining.

This poses a great risk to them and their baby, through no fault of their own, however, because typical seat belts were not designed or tested with pregnant women, or their safety, in mind.

seat belt submarining for pregnant women

I am Pregnant, How Should I Wear My Seat Belt?

You may think to yourself, “if seat belts are not designed with me in mind and can harm my baby, should I still wear one?” Yes! Absolutely.

A seat belt is one of the most effective ways to ensure you and your baby remain safe in a car crash. While you are pregnant you may have to make a few adjustments and be extra cautious. But when worn properly, a seat belt can save you and your baby’s life.

“So, then how should I wear my seat belt during pregnancy?” Great question! To reduce the likelihood of seat belt submarining, this is how you should wear your seat belt while pregnant:

  • Always wear the lap belt and shoulder strap snugly, avoid excessive slack
  • Make sure the lap belt rests under your belly and fits snugly over your hips
  • The shoulder strap should rest in-between your breasts and just off the side of your belly
  • Make sure to never put the shoulder strap under your arm
  • If the seat belt slips out of place, make sure to readjust it safely and quickly

Tummy Shield Protects Pregnant Drivers

Using the Tummy Shield with the vehicle seat belt effectively eliminates the possibility of seat belt submarining for pregnant women.

The Tummy Shield was created by an Australian engineer after their first child was born with a traumatic brain injury caused in utero from the seat belt in a near crash. The Tummy Shield is a portable seat belt positioner for pregnant women. The cushion is comfortable foam wrapping an 8-pound platform of stainless steel. A small portion of the stainless steel protrudes from the foam. This anchor provides an anchor for your seat belt to rest directly between your legs.

Buy your Tummy Shield for safer driving during pregnancy.

The Tummy Shield redirects the seat belt away from your belly, where it can harm your unborn baby, and anchors it between your legs. This position keeps the seat belt sitting snugly at your hip. Its design is similar to the restraints race car drivers use to protect themselves while traveling at high speeds.

Unlike typical seat belts, the Tummy Shield was specifically designed with pregnant women and their unborn children in mind. Tummy Shield has undergone extensive crash testing to ensure efficacy and safety for users. Its design offers unparalleled ease of use and peace of mind for expectant moms to protect themselves and their unborn baby.

Keep in mind, other products claim to do what the crash testing and real-life user results prove Tummy Shield does. All pregnancy seat belt positioners do not produce equal safety outcomes.

Guest post: Ahmed A. is a graduate of San Diego State University. He writes about the topics of Law, Safety, and Technology. When not writing, you’ll find him on an outdoor adventures or cooking a delicious meal at home.

Copyright 2022 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

© amie durocher
@ tomwang | depositphotos

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