What do moms-to-be need to know about pregnancy and seat belts? There’s more to it than meets the eye.
Seat belts were originally designed for airplanes then adapted to cars. For many years, they were an “aftermarket” product. There is a story that car manufacturers were worried that if they installed seat belts in their cars, people would think their cars were less safe than cars without them. Sense prevailed and in 1950 the first factory-installed seat belts were put into Nash cars.
Seat belts were unregulated for many years. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was initiated in 1966 after which time they began to create seat belt standards and regulations. (Another instance where innovation preceded regulation.)
During the 60’s and 70’s NHTSA tested seat belts considering use during pregnancy. They found pregnancy and seat belts were not without risk. The NHTSA website even today has a warning that the lap belt can cause injury to the unborn baby.
As seat belts were developed there were fewer cars on the road and fewer women in the car in general. Now there are many more times the cars and women driving so the risk has increased.
Wearing ones seat belt is important even during pregnancy. The number one purpose of the seat belt is to hold the occupant inside the vehicle. When a person is ejected from a car their risk of injury and death increase exponentially.
However, NHTSA’s recommendation for safely wearing the seat belt has remained to keep the lap portion as low as possible under the pregnancy and the shoulder portion mid-shoulder/mid-chest between the breasts.
The safety community understands based on child restraints and race car restraints that a 5-point harness seat belt is safest. Now with the Tummy Shield, which adds an anchor point between the legs (and thus removing the lap belt off the pregnant belly), pregnant women have the option to increase their 3-point seat belt to a safer 4-point.
Had you ever considered the design of the seat belt in relation to your pregnancy? Share your comments below.
By Greg Durocher, CEO at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Technician Instructor since 2002
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