Whenever one of my patients asked me to write a note excusing her from wearing a seatbelt so that she can avoid paying a ticket, I climb up on my soapbox and preach.

Each year 32,800 pregnant women are affected by motor vehicle accidents and 2.8% of pregnant women experience a crash. According to the American College of Obstetricians-Gynecologists (ACOG), motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of injury to pregnant women and can also cause fetal deaths. This statistic struck close to home regarding one of my patients.

Emma (*not her real name) was pregnant with her first baby and would always come to her prenatal visits accompanied by her best friend, Lynne. They had been friends for life and chattered with excitement regarding future plans for Emma and her unborn baby. At approximately 26 weeks, Emma was involved in a fatal car accident. Both she and Lynne were riding in Emma’s car on the way to the mall. Emma was the driver and stated that out of nowhere, a car unexpectedly ran through a red light and totaled her car. Lynne was not wearing a seatbelt, fell across Emma’s lap inadvertently shielding her pregnant abdomen and then died instantly. Emma sustained a fractured leg that required surgery. She was traumatized knowing that her baby survived because Lynne’s body fell on her providing a life-saving shield. Emma’s physical scars eventually healed; her emotional scars will take a little longer.

It is well documented that seatbelts reduce the risk of maternal and fetal catastrophes and its imperative that pregnant women use them. And what about air bags? ACOG published a recent article (Obstetrics & Gynecology, The Effect of Air Bags on Pregnancy Outcomes in Washington State: 2002-2005),115(1):85-92)stating that airbags in conjunction with three-point seatbelt use were associated with fewer poor outcomes for mothers and unborn babies. Both ACOG and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration recommend that pregnant women NOT turn off air bags while driving.

So, pregnant moms, PLEASE wear those seat belts whether you are the driver or passenger. Seat belts are not worn for fashion; they can actually save lives.