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Are Seatbelts Unsafe for Pregnant Women in Auto Accidents?

June 13, 2011

There are about 170,000 car crashes a year that involve pregnant women. According to one study, when accidents result in serious consequences to the baby, the lack of a seatbelt typically plays a substantial factor approximately 62 percent of the time.

Proper seatbelt use by women who are pregnant could result in prevention of 84 percent of disabling injuries and deaths to fetuses. These statistics were gleaned from a study conducted at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Michigan Health System.

This study conducted by Dr. Mark Pearlman was designed to dispel the myth that women who are pregnant should not wear seat belts. Approximately 370 fetuses per year are killed in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. The study conducted by Dr. Pearlman was intended to challenge the claim by some that seatbelt use actually results in an increase in the number of fetal deaths in car accidents.

The study examined 57 automobile crashes that involved pregnant women. They analyzed the crashes including the impact of seat belts use on pregnancy during the auto accidents. The results of the study produced some interesting findings:

  • In crashes where women were wearing their seat belts incorrectly, 50 percent of women lost their fetus or had major complications.
  • In crashes where women wore no seat belts, 80 percent of women lost their baby or the fetus had major complications.
  • Only 29 percent of the fetuses were lost or had complications when women wore their seatbelts.

Seat Belts Can Protect Your Baby

Ironically, most women indicate fear of injury to their fetus or themselves are the biggest reason why they do not wear a seatbelt when they are pregnant. The validity of this fear is being called into question by studies on pregnancy and seatbelts that are being performed around the country. Another study performed in Utah ended with the take-home message that pregnant women should still wear safety belts even if it is uncomfortable. "It's safer for the baby and the mother," according to lead author of the study, Lisa Hyde. The Utah study was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and concluded that pregnant drivers that did not wear a seat belt when involved in a car crash were nearly three times more likely to experience a fetal death and twice as likely to experience excessive internal bleeding, in comparison to women who wore their seat belts.

Simple physics explains why seatbelt use is less of a risk to a fetus than impact from a collision in which a pregnant woman is unbuckled. During an impact, the pregnant mother will continue to move at the speed of the vehicle at the time of impact. A pregnant woman who weighs 130 pounds who collides with the steering wheel in an auto accident while going 25 miles per hour will result in a crash force of approximately 1.5 tons.

Using the Seat Belt Correctly

There is a correct way for pregnant women to wear seat belts that is recommended by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They suggest that the lap belt should be placed snugly under the abdomen, and the shoulder belt should be placed diagonally across the chest. The system should always be a three-point restraint system as described above, and seat belts should never go directly across a pregnant woman’s stomach.


The other big concern for pregnant mothers in terms of auto accident safety equipment is the alleged danger posed by air bags. According to the National Safety Commission, most auto safety experts agree that pregnant women and their fetuses are less safe in an auto accident if the air bag is turned off. If a driver is pregnant, it is important to move the seat back as far as possible where the driver can still control the vehicle. If the pregnant woman is not driving, it is advisable to sit in the backseat of the vehicle.


If you are involved in an auto accident where you sustain injuries, it is important that you seek medical treatment right away and get your medical condition and that of your unborn child assessed. If the accident was a result of another's negligence, then you should seek out the advice and counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney right away. A good car accident attorney in Georgia can help you to evaluate questions of liability and possibly seek compensation for potential medical costs, lost wages or injuries.

A Georgia auto accident attorney from our law firm is available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located we are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.