A surprising new Canadian study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, has found that pregnant women are at higher risk of serious car accidents, especially early in their second trimester. So what are the details and what can pregnant women do to protect themselves? Should pregnant women stay out of the driver’s seat?
Pregnant Women at Higher Risk of Serious Car Accidents
The study of 507,262 women in Ontario found that women driving in their second trimester were at 42% greater risk of a life-threatening crash than before their pregnancy.
The nausea, fatigue, and insomnia that often accompany pregnancy may translate into greater driver error. And sadly, “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fetal death related to maternal trauma” say the researchers. The most dangerous month was found to be the first month of the second trimester, with a rate of 7.7 car crashes for every 1,000 individuals per year.
In the three years before pregnancy, women experienced 6,922 crashes (a rate of 177 per month). During the second trimester, the women in the study had 757 crashes (a rate of 252 per month) while driving. That’s almost a 50% increase!
Both baby and mother are at serious risk in the event of a car crash, at any stage of pregnancy.
Since pregnancy symptoms can lead to greater driver error, what can pregnant drivers do to decrease the risk?
In short, researchers suggest pregnant women take extra care when driving. Keep mindful of basic safety practices (which are important even if you aren’t pregnant!):
- Don’t speed!
- Don’t eat, talk on the phone, or do anything else that will distract you. Decide to drive and leave the distractions for another time.
- Use your turn signal, and don’t wait until the last second to put it on!
- Pay attention to stop signs and other traffic signs. It’s easy to blow through a stop sign when you’re not focused.
- Use your seatbelt, always, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Remember that you have a baby on board. Drive as if your precious baby cargo is in a car seat behind you. Keep in mind that no car crash is truly an “accident” – they all have a cause, whether it is driving too fast for the road conditions or getting distracted behind the wheel. The good news is that researchers didn’t find any increased risk for pregnant women as passengers or pedestrians.
Have you experienced a car crash during your pregnancy? Let us know in the comments.