A recent article in Consumer Reports.Org, brought back memories of an encounter I had with a patient. She was in her third trimester, wasn’t wearing a seat belt and subsequently received a violation and ticket. She asked me if I would write a note on her behalf excusing her from wearing the seat belt so that she wouldn’t have to pay the ticket. I looked at her as if she had burst into flames and tried to maintain my composure as I gave a resounding “No.” I couldn’t do that. Seat belts save lives. It is also, as my patient discovered a law. Contrary to popular belief, murder and trauma (including auto crashes) are the most common killers of pregnant women. In fact, another patient of mine was a passenger in a car driven by her best friend. The best friend died and my patient required surgery on a fractured leg. Neither one was wearing a seat belt.

According to published studies, approximately 170,000 pregnant women are involved in automobile accidents each year and almost 400 unborn babies die as a result. Two percent of these women did not wear seatbelts and 18 percent were driving without airbags. All of these injuries and deaths are preventable with the proper use of seat belts.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following procedures for pregnant women:

• Move your seat back as far as possible if you’re the driver
• Make sure you can reach the pedals comfortable
• Keep at least 10 inches between the center of your chest and the steering wheel throughout the pregnancy
• If possible, please sit in the back seat
• If sitting in the front seat, move the seat back as far as possible
• Place the shoulder belt across your chest (between your breasts) and away from your neck
• Secure the lap belt below your belly so that it fits snugly across your hips and pelvic bone
• Never place the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm
• Install your car seat at least 3 weeks before your due date and get it checked by a local certified car seat technician.

Seat belts save lives, ladies. Please remember to use them.