We all know that we should exhibit safe driving behavior whenever we’re on the road. If we’ve had a few drinks at the bar, we know to find a sober ride home. We know to avoid texting while driving. However, there are other life circumstances that can amplify our likelihood of getting into an accident – and we may not even realize it.
Researchers recently conducted a study on the influence of pregnancy on driving. They found that a pregnant woman’s chances of being involved in a crash spike markedly during the second trimester – particularly during the first month. During this period, pregnant women are as likely to get into a car accident as a driver with sleep apnea. Meanwhile, the third trimester shows a sharp decline in car accidents. Researchers found no similar pattern in pregnant women who were vehicle passengers or pedestrians.
What’s so risky about the second trimester?
Researchers suggest the reason for these findings has to do with the increased potential for human error that women in the second trimester of pregnancy face. They may be experiencing physiological changes – such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, nausea or unintended distraction. However, any anatomical changes may not be very pronounced yet. Thus, women in the second trimester may still be quite active and not recognize that their abilities are compromised.
Avoiding prenatal tragedy
During a woman’s pregnancy, car crashes are the number one cause of fetal death. If an unborn baby survives a crash, they face a high risk of complications in life – including brain damage and neurological problems.
A car crash during pregnancy can be catastrophic. Therefore, it’s critical to take special care when driving while pregnant:
- Be sure to always drive the speed limit and follow traffic signals.
- Do whatever you can to limit your distractions while driving – such as turning off your cell phone and radio.
- Always wear a seatbelt when driving. Position the lap belt over the hips and under the belly, and the shoulder strap to the side of the belly.
Following these safety precautions can play a vital role in preventing a tragic accident.