While some pregnancy “no-no’s” are pretty well known, like avoiding raw fish and unpasteurized foods, others aren’t. For instance, is it safe to drive while you’re pregnant? For some, yes. For others, no. It depends on your situation and your doctor’s recommendations. Still, every year about 170,000 pregnant people are involved in motor vehicle crashes, estimates a study by the University of Michigan. Reduce your chances of being in an accident or getting hurt in one with these safety tips for driving while pregnant.
Please keep in mind that our goal is to provide you with general, helpful information about car safety and pregnancy. Always consult your doctor before driving while pregnant.
Get Properly Situated Behind the Wheel
Wear your seat belt
Doctors recommend that you wear a seat belt throughout all stages of your pregnancy, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as it’s the “single most effective action you can take to protect yourself and your unborn child in a crash.”
Make sure the shoulder belt is away from your neck and across your chest, with the lap belt secured below your belly, advises the NHTSA. The lap belt should never be placed over or on top of your belly.
Adjust your seat position
Like normal, your seat should be in a comfortable, upright position. However, keep as much space between the steering wheel and your belly as you can while still being able to reach the wheel and pedals. If you’re in the passenger seat, move your seat as far back as possible.
Don’t disable your airbags
Some cars are equipped with airbag disabling switches. According to the NHTSA, doctors recommend that pregnant drivers wear seat belts and leave their airbags turned on. Together, these two safety features can help protect you and your unborn child. Without them, you could crash into the vehicle’s interior, other passengers, or even be thrown from the car.
Drive Cautiously While Pregnant
The risk of expectant mothers in traffic accidents rises by about 40%, especially during the second trimester of pregnancy, reports NPR, and a woman’s chance of getting into an accident is about the same as someone with sleep apnea.
This increased risk doesn’t mean that you must stop driving, just that you should drive more carefully. “Obey stop signs. Don’t speed. Minimize distractions — standard safe driving habits,” says NPR. While this advice may feel mundane, every one of the crashes studied that involved pregnant women “could have been avoided by a small change in driver behaviors.”
However, emergency room doctor Donald Redelmeier, who led the study notes that young adult men have even higher crash rates than pregnant women, so they’re not necessarily recommending expectant mothers delegate the driving to their male partner.
Top Safe Driving Tips While Pregnant
To help you stress less and stay safe, check out the following tips for safe driving while pregnant:
- Consult your doctor if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable driving
- Adjust your seat, seat belt, steering wheel
- Avoid distracted driving (including eating, putting on makeup, etc.)
- Choose to be the passenger when you don’t feel comfortable driving
- Take breaks to stretch your legs, use the restroom, and refresh your senses
- Drive if your doctor advises against it
- Drive if you’re feeling dizzy, tired, or nauseous
- Drive if you think you may be in labor. Call for help right away!
When to stop driving when pregnant
When and if you choose to stop driving while pregnant is entirely up to you and your doctor. As long as you’re following the above “dos”, don’t feel sleepy (drowsy driving is dangerous!), and are able to fit comfortably behind the steering wheel and reach the pedals, there is no reason you can’t safely drive while pregnant. There are no laws stating it’s illegal to drive while pregnant either. Just be sure to follow the law on wearing your seatbelt! It is completely safe to wear a seatbelt while pregnant— and it will keep you safe! However, if you choose to ride as a passenger, ensure you’re riding where the airbags are, which are typically in the front seat of the car. Most back seats don’t have airbags.