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Pregnant Drivers: Risk For Car Crash Spikes In Second Trimester

Researchers from Canada have identified a new health risk to worry about during pregnancy: car accident injuries.

The University of Toronto researchers found that during the second trimester of pregnancy, a woman’s odds of being hospitalized due to a multi-vehicle accident were 42% greater than they were the three years before she became pregnant. By the third trimester, the risk becomes significantly lower than it was before pregnancy, and falls even further in the first year after the woman gives birth.

Pregnant Car Accident

The study was led by Dr. Donald Redelmeier of the University of Toronto.  Redelmeier explains that “It amounts to about a 1 in 50 statistical risk of the average woman having a motor vehicle crash at some point during her pregnancy.”

Why The Second Trimester?

The research team from the University of Toronto and other affiliated institutions wanted to determine what could cause the increase in car accident risk during the second trimester. The place to start, of course, was the symptoms of pregnancy themselves.

Researchers wondered whether fatigue, distraction, nausea, and other annoyances that accompany pregnancy might make women more susceptible to car accidents. More peculiar is that the increase of statistical risk occurs during the second trimester; a time when women often feel like their normal selves, and physiological changes are not as significant as they are in the later months of pregnancy.

Age Of Women Considered A Factor

Researchers collected data from more than 500,000 women who had given birth in Ontario sometime between 2006 and 2011. Combing through data from Ontario hospitals, they looked into how often the women got into serious car crashes during the three years before they became pregnant, during each trimester of pregnancy, and for the first year after the child’s birth.

The women were an average sample of the population, meaning that they weren’t perfect drivers during that three year baseline period. Researchers counted a total of 6,922 crashes, dividing out to be 4.55 crashes per 1,000 women per year. Statistically, this is more than double the population’s average of 2 crashes per 1,000 people per year. Researchers theorized that this could be because pregnant women tend to be relatively young adults-explaining an already higher crash rate.

Crash Rate Changes Throughout Pregnancy

Redelmeier and his team found that something definitely changed specifically during the first month of the second trimester. During that month, the women’s crash rate reached 7.7 collisions per 1,000 women per year.

pregnant driversThe entire second trimester found a 6.5 collisions per 1,000 women per year. That’s 42% higher than the baseline period.

Increased crash risk was seen in all women regardless of age, socioeconomic status, the gender of their babies, day and time of crash, and most other factors. The one factor that seemed to influence crash rate differently was whether women lived in the city or in a rural area. (Risk was higher for city drivers).

Of course, it’s easy to think “well, since the women were pregnant, perhaps they were more likely to go to the hospital after a crash just to check on the baby,” But University of Toronto researchers checked on that too; there was no increase in car accident injuries when they were passengers in other people’s cars, or as pedestrians.

The Safest time for Pregnant Women & New Moms

Interestingly, the safest month turned out to be the last month of pregnancy. The women averaged at 2.74 crashes per 1,000 women per year. Statistically, they were less likely to be involved in an accident during that month than they were in the three years before becoming pregnant.

Additionally, the car accident rate dropped even more during the first year of the child’s birth, bringing the average to 2.35 crashes per 1,000 women per year.

Statistics Could Be Even Higher

The women selected for this study were women who had given birth within the 5 year period. If a pregnant woman had been involved in an accident, and the fetus died, the woman would not have gone on to give birth. Considering that car accidents are the leading cause of fetal death related to trauma, this could mean that the crash rate for pregnant women is even higher than Redelmeier’s team initially found.

Redelmeier explains in a video released by the Sunnybrook Research Institute that the takeaway is not that pregnant women should stop driving. Instead, “the message is to start driving more carefully.”

Of course, as with any statistic, perception can be skewed. This study only looked at women who had visited the hospital after a car accident while pregnant. The fact is, pregnant women would be more likely than others to visit the hospital after a crash, simply because they would want to check on the health of the fetus. This is a good choice.

As car accident attorneys, our takeaway is that pregnant women are putting safety first – both for their own health, and for the health of their baby.  The message we’d like to encourage would be to ALWAYS get medical treatment if you’re injured in an accident while pregnant.

What to do if You’re in a Car Accident While Pregnant

If you are involved in a car accident during your pregnancy, it is especially important to seek treatment right away. Even if you feel alright, adrenaline will be pumping, so you may not feel injured at first. Additionally, you will want to make sure the trauma has not caused any harm to the baby.

The insurance company may consider your pregnancy a “pre-existing condition” and try to get out of paying some bills associated with your pregnancy. Don’t let them take advantage of your situation because it is so unique.  As soon as practicable, contact a St. Louis car accident attorney at Schultz & Myers. Our consultations are always free: 314.444.4444.

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