What to look for in a pregnancy seatbelt positioner?
We find more and more choices in pregnancy seatbelt positioner devices available all the time.
This is good in a sense because it means more people are realizing there is an issue to address in driving during pregnancy. The trouble is, as there are not yet any federal standards, many of these products actually may add to the safety problem rather than help solve it.
Driving during pregnancy, what is the Issue?
The issue is the increased risk of injury to both mother and baby in the event of a crash during pregnancy. There is also a common complaint that the seat belt is uncomfortable and this drives many women to not wear the seat belt at all during their pregnancy. This, of course, increases the risk of injury even more.
More than 170,000 pregnant women are involved in car accidents every year, resulting in thousands of lost pregnancies (Klinich et al, 2008). The existing seat belt system in the vehicle was not designed or tested to protect women who are in a vehicle while expecting. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s old website (see screen shot below), the current restraining device exposes an inherent risk for injury, or even death, to a fetus.
“The fact is that it is not possible to position the lap belt in a way that would prevent crushing the fetus in a frontal crash. Clearly lap and shoulder belts alone are not appropriate for use by pregnant women,” said Jim Hofferbirth, former director of the Office of Crashworthiness at NHTSA.
Types of Pregnancy Seatbelt positioners
Some pregnancy seatbelt positioners are designed only for added comfort while driving. Others actually say they are designed to help protect the baby in the event of a crash. And others actually are designed and engineered for increased safety.
There are three main styles that we’ve found:
- Positioners that use some sort of soft material intended to keep the lap belt “low/under on the belly”
- Positioners that use some sort of hook to create an anchor point between the legs, removing the lap belt from the pregnancy area all together.
- A third less common style is the pillow or cushion that goes between the seat belt and the baby bump.
What to Look for in a Pregnancy Seatbelt positioner
- First you want to look at the materials the pregnancy seat positioner is made of.
- Is it a sturdy construction that will withstand the high amount of force created in a crash?
- Are the materials strong enough that they won’t rip or break during a crash?
- You want to research whether or not it’s been crash tested.
- Do the crash tests verify that the seatbelt still works as intended to hold the occupant in the vehicle while using the positioner?
- Do strength/crash tests verify the construction is sturdy and able to withstand the crash forces?
- Look at the design to see if there is excess slack in the seat belt should the device fail or compress.
- If the lap belt is still crossing your belly, is there cushioning that goes between you and the lap belt? Just like car seat technicians do not recommend children using thick coats in car seats because the padding will compress during a crash and the harness straps will likely be too loose, you want to make sure the positioner you choose does not have padding between you and the seat belt that will compress during the crash allowing you to move farther forward before the seat belt stops you
- If the lap belt is being anchored between the legs, is the anchor close to your body? If it is too forward of your body, your body has to travel forward before the seat belt engages your body and stops you which increases the energy with which you ultimately impact the seat belt.
Why Tummy Shield is the Safest Choice
Tummy Shield is one of the devices that creates an anchor point between the legs, redirecting the lap belt completely away from the pregnant belly.
- While the Tummy Shield looks like a nice soft pad, inside that pad is a heavy-duty single-piece stainless steel plate and anchor. The stainless steel is held in place in the car with a strap that wraps vehicle seat. This has been strength tested to ensure it will not break from crash forces and is at least as strong as the seat belt itself.
- The Tummy Shield has been through multiple rounds of crash tests, both where it was created in Australia and in the U.S. The tests show the seat belt still performs to federal standards (FMVSS 209 and AU standards) while using the Tummy Shield.
- The anchor on the Tummy Shield should be positioned right at the pregnant woman’s crotch per the instructions. Some other hook positioners sit at the front of the vehicle seat so there are inches to move forward before even contacting the seat belt (assuming the other devices’ hook construction stays intact).
Pregnancy seat belt adjusters are not federally regulated yet. Put your baby’s safety in a product that has gone above and beyond to prove its performance in a crash.
Tummy Shield is the number one choice by prenatal care providers and safety experts, it’s the ONLY seat belt for pregnant moms that actually protects unborn baby in the event of a crash, is comfortable for moms-to-be, and is easy to use and transfer from seat to seat.
When it comes to safety, you get what you pay for.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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