Should You Wear a Seat Belt When You’re Pregnant?
By Nancy Anthony, NHTSA-Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician
That’s a simple one! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), doctors, and Child Passenger Safety experts all agree that wearing a seat belt throughout your pregnancy is the single most effective way to protect yourself and your unborn baby from injury in a motor vehicle crash. No one should ever ride in a car without buckling up.
How should you wear your seat belt when you’re pregnant?
First, make sure you always use a lap AND shoulder belt. Lap belt-only seat belts do not offer adequate upper body protection. The shoulder belt should rest over your shoulder, away from your neck, and across the center of your chest. The shoulder belt should never fall off the shoulder or be placed under your arm or behind your back. The lap belt should be placed UNDER your belly and should fit snugly across your hips and pelvic bone. Never place the lap belt over or on top of your belly. Also, NEVER add any “after-market” belt-positioning device to your vehicle’s seat belt. These devices are not regulated, reliably tested, or NHTSA-approved.
Some additional things to make car travel safer during pregnancy:
- As a driver, adjust your seat to keep as much space as possible between your belly and the steering wheel.
- As a passenger, do not deactivate your airbag. Airbags work together with the seat belt to provide the best protection. Move your seat back as far as possible away from the dashboard.
- IF you are in a crash, seek immediate medical attention for yourself and your unborn baby, even if you think you are not injured.
Protect Your Furry Passengers Too!
In the Dar a Luz Carseat class, I recommend checking your vehicle for heavy, unsecured objects that could become dangerous projectiles in the event of a crash or sudden stop. Items such as tools, water bottles, and computers can cause serious injury when they hit an occupant at high speeds. But one thing we sometimes don’t think about restraining is our dog.
Unrestrained pets in cars are a major cause of distracted driving. Unrestrained pets in car crashes can impact or land on top of other passengers in the car, injuring their humans and themselves. Additionally, they often are ejected from vehicles in crashes, or run away from the crash into traffic.
The safest thing to do for your human and pet passengers is to always restrain your pet in the car, using either a pet harness or a crate that can be belted in or secured with straps to the vehicle’s cargo tie-down anchors. There are many choices of pet restraints available online and in pet stores, with prices starting at just $20. That’s a small price to pay for a significant increase in safety and peace of mind!
Visit the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Injury Research & Prevention at www.injury.research.chop.edu for more information.
Small steps can make a big difference! Remember: buckle up for yourself and all of your loved ones!
Wishing you safe and happy driving,
Nancy has been a NHTSA-Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and Instructor since 2002. Nancy lives in Sandia Park with her husband and two children. Her daughter Charlotte was born at Dar a Luz in 2011. She is a huge proponent of natural, peaceful labor and birth, and is passionate about protecting our children from one of the worst dangers in the United States – car crashes. She loves to help parents select, install, and use their child’s car seat correctly. If you are unable to afford a car seat, she may be able to assist you in obtaining a new one.