The New York Times recently published an article discussing the steps car companies such as The Ford Motor Company are doing to protect pregnant drivers and their unborn children.
States are not required to track fetal deaths when reporting car accident data, but it is estimated that 300 to 1,000 unborn children die in car accidents each year. The car accident fatality rate for unborn children is about four times the rate for infants and children up to age 4. Car safety experts at Virginia Tech University, funded in part by Ford Motor Company, are trying to develop a computerized crash test model to determine how best to protect pregnant women and their unborn children during a auto collision.
Stefan Duma, Virginia Tech’s head of biomechanical engineering, discussed with the Times the different steps that are being taken to protect pregnant drivers. Below is some of her insight on this issue:
“The three-point belt (a shoulder belt and lap belt) is better for everybody. But with pregnant women, one of the problems is misuse and misinformation. A lot of women don’t like the way belts feel, and they move the shoulder strap or the lap belt will ride up and come up in the middle of the abdomen. Seat belts are designed to load on the bony structures. You want the seat belt on your pelvis. If they are seated right the airbag helps. The seat belt and airbag combination is best.”
“The design cycle for cars is about three years. If I wanted to put a new thing in a car right now the best case is three to four years. What is the perfect belt for a pregnant occupant? It’s a a difficult solution, but it’s something we need to work toward. There are some attachments out there, but none of them are recommended by auto manufacturers. The problem is we don’t really have a good tool to evaluate what they do. The first step is to develop a computer model to evaluate them.”
“The biggest thing is to wear your seat belt. Keep the lap belt by your legs and stay as far away from the steering wheel as you can. Some vehicles have a button to adjust the height of the brake and gas pedal so shorter people don’t have to sit so close to the steering wheel. And there are after-market pedal extenders. My wife used those. Pedal extenders allowed us to put her in a position further away from the steering wheel. It’s just three inches, but that’s a lot of distance in an accident.”
To read the complete article, click here.
We will have to wait and see if any technology is installed in new car models that will help protect pregnant women and their unborn children.