Pregnant Drivers at Higher Risk of Traffic Accidents, Study Reveals

Doctors always seem to have a lot of rules for pregnant women: Don’t eat sushi. Avoid hot tubs. Abstain from alcohol.

Now, it seems there could be one more to add to that list: Drive more carefully. matteo2

A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicates that women have more crashes during pregnancy than they do in the years before or after gestation, with the most concentrated risk occurring the second trimester.

Naples car accident attorneys understand that while crashes can often be traumatizing, they are especially so for expectant mothers, who are concerned not only with their own safety, but the well-being of their unborn child. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 33,000 pregnant women are involved in wrecks every year, making it the No. 1 cause of death and serious trauma during pregnancy.

It’s imperative for pregnant women involved in a crash to seek emergency medical treatment as soon as possible, even if no obvious injuries are apparent. Some obstetricians note that sometimes in the course of suffering a sudden jolt or impact, there is a risk of placental abruption, which can lead to premature delivery, hemorrhaging and even miscarriage. In some cases, the mother may not notice anything abnormal. There are also situations where a blow to the abdomen¬† results in the mother’s blood mixing with the baby’s. If she is Rh-negative, she may require a shot of Rh immunoglobulin to reduce the risk of the baby falling ill. A thorough medical exam immediately following a crash can help ensure both baby and mother are truly fine.

Per Florida Statute 316.193, a person whose reckless or negligent driving causes the death of a viable, unborn fetus can be charged either with vehicular homicide or DUI manslaughter, both second-degree felonies, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The Canadian study, conducted by researchers with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, is the first of its kind study to examine crash incidents involving pregnant women behind the wheel. The study authors analyzed records for more than 500,000 women who gave birth in Ontario over the last decade. Their driving records were tracked for four years prior and one year after birth. The only crashes counted were those serious enough to land the mother in the emergency room.

Prior to becoming pregnant, these drivers experienced approximately 177 serious wrecks a month, for a rate of about 4.5 per 1,000. That rate stayed fairly steady through the first month of pregnancy. However, by the fourth month, the figure shot up to nearly 300 crashes, for a rate of 7.6 per 1,000 – a 44 percent increase. Then into the last month of pregnancy and the year after the birth, the crash rate fell to 2.7 per 1,000 – nearly half of what it was pre-pregnancy.

There are a few theories of causation. In the first month of pregnancy, a woman may not even realize she is pregnant, and so it makes sense that the rate would remain about the same. By the second month, she is beginning to experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue and distraction. All of these things, researchers say, could serve to contribute to driving errors.

There is also a phenomenon called “pregnancy brain,” which is a sense of mental fogginess that many women report as the pregnancy goes on.

By the time women reach their last trimester, they probably aren’t driving as much. After their child is born, they are more likely to be driving with an infant, which in theory would cause them to be significantly more cautious on the road.

Researchers say this is not a mandate that pregnant women shouldn’t drive, but rather a cautionary indication to be extra-mindful of the rules of the road.

Doctors recommend pregnant women always wear their seat belt, keep the air bag feature on and keep a minimum of 10 inches between their breastbone and the steering wheel.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Study: Pregnant Drivers Have More Crashes, May 12, 2014, By Kim Painter, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

Injuries Incurred While Leaving Work May Still be Compensable, May 1, 2014, Naples Accident Lawyer Blog