The existing seat belt system was never designed or tested to provide optimum safety for a pregnant mom, making pregnancy and seat belt danger an unfortunate combination.
Yes, you read that right! Never designed or tested to provide optimum safety.
The seat belt was designed to grab onto or engage the hip bones and secure an occupant in the seat. For the expecting mother prior to the end of her first trimester, this isn’t a big deal. During that time, baby is still pretty well protected down inside your pelvic structure.
But toward the start of the second trimester, baby moves up above and in front of your hip bones. When you’re driving or riding while in your second and third trimesters, the “lap” part of the seat belt is held out in front of your hip bones.
If suddenly engaged — like in a car crash or sudden stop — the belt will compress with extreme speed and force right through the tummy area into the pregnancy, potentially compressing the baby in the narrow space between the seat belt and the spine.
A review of studies over the past 15 years or so indicates there is a potential pregnancy and seat belt danger. (Download the guide, click the link to the right. >>>)
The seat belt was originally designed for the most common driver at the time, a mid-size male. Over the years, little improvement has been made to the design. With all the testing required for seat belt, cars, car seats; there are no required tests or standards for the seat belt specifically for how it affects pregnant women.
This video explains pregnancy and seat belt danger
The moment a car detects a crash, the seat belt has pretensioners located on both sides of the occupant. They fire and the seat belt braces the occupant into the seat.
According to research, car crashes are the most common reason for pregnant women being hospitalized. For the fetus car crashes are the most common cause of fatal injury.
Professor Ian Milson, Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology Sahlgrenskan University Sweden, says “I think the most important to remember is that we know so little about what happens to pregnant women in car accidents.” In the US there are indications that more pregnant women die from car crashes than complications associated with pregnancy.
Download our free PDF guide: Safer Driving During Pregnancy
“This is obviously something that is important for us to study closer,” Milson said.
“Car crashes, potentially, can pose a danger to the baby at all stages of pregnancy,” Laura Thackray MSc Biomechanics & Computer Simulation Engineer VCSC. It’s important to wear the seat belt as low as possible and with the shoulder portion mid-chest/mid-shoulder.
The challenge with the recommended way of wearing the seat belt is studies show it is common for the belt to lift during a crash, coming out of position. And, even when worn as recommended, on some pregnancies, the belt still crosses in front of the baby.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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We originally published this post in February 2017. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.