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Researchers urge pregnant women to focus on safe driving

In recognition of the car accident dangers facing pregnant women, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has promulgated a longstanding series of valuable safety recommendations.

Chief among these recommendations is that pregnant women should always wear a lap and shoulder belt when behind the wheel. Furthermore, the recommendations advise pregnant women not to shut off the airbags in their vehicles, and to keep at least 10 inches between themselves and the steering wheel.

While this is certainly very good advice, pregnant women -- particularly those in the second trimester -- may also want to consider some of the safety guidance offered by Canadian researchers who recently completed a study examining whether pregnant women are more likely to be involved in car accidents. 

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, examined the driving records for over 500,000 women in Ontario who had given birth. Here, the researchers were looking for evidence that the women had been involved in a serious car crash requiring emergency room treatment in the year after having their babies and/or the four years preceding the birth.

They determined the following:

  • In the four years preceding the birth, there were an average of 177 serious car crashes per month, which is an annual rate of 4.5 crashes per 1,000 drivers; these numbers remained relatively steady during the first month of pregnancy.
  • By the fourth month of pregnancy, there was an average of 299 serious car crashes per month, which is an annual rate of 7.6 per 1,000 drivers.
  • By the final month of pregnancy, there was an average of 2.7 serious car crashes per 1,000 drivers; these numbers remained relatively low for the first year after giving birth.

The researchers believe that the significant increase in the number of crashes during the fourth month can likely be explained by the fact that women are feeling all of the physical effects of pregnancy during this time (i.e., the second trimester), yet haven't advanced far enough to drive as cautiously as they probably would during the third trimester.

"A normal pregnancy is associated with fatigue, nausea, insomnia, anxiety and distraction," said the researcher. "All those changes could contribute to driver error."

Conversely, the researchers believe that the significant decrease in the number of crashes during the last month of pregnancy and the year thereafter can likely be explained by the fact that women are driving less during these times and/or making a concerted effort to drive as safely as possible with babies in tow.

In order to lower the risk of car accidents in the second trimester, the researchers simply encourage pregnant women to "slow down and follow the rules of the road." In other words, apply third trimester attitudes about driving to the second trimester.

Remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you've been injured or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident caused by the negligent conduct of another. 

Source: USA Today, "Study: Pregnant drivers may have more car crashes," Kim Painter, May 12, 2014

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