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Properly fastened seatbelts protect unborn babies

By Sun Advocate

Unborn children are completely dependent on mothers for safety and well being. Most women know that diet, rest and exercise are important during pregnancy. What many don’t realize is the importance of safety belts.
Seatbelts are designed to save lives. In Utah, one person is injured or killed in a traffic accident every 17.5 minutes. As many as 70 percent of the victims were not buckled up.
The leading cause of fetal death in a car crash is death of the mother. Fetal injury is closely related to the injury to the mother. The best way to protect a child is by protecting the mother by utilizing a properly fitting safety belts on every ride.
During an accident, three separate collisions occur in less than a second. The first is when the vehicle crashes and comes to a sudden stop. The second is when unrestrained people, moving at the car’s traveling speed, slam into the steering wheel, dashboard, windshield or other passengers. The third is when internal organs collide with other organs or the body’s skeleton.
In a 40 mile per hour crash, the force exerted on an unbelted passenger would be the same as falling from a five story building.
Safety belts were designed to keep passengers in the seat and allow the body to slow down gradually. During a crash, the belt spreads the force over larger and stronger parts of the body such as the chest, hips and shoulders.
Many people fear that pressure from the seatbelt in an accident may cause injury to the unborn child. But fetal injury due to the pressure is rare, occurring in less than one in 10,000 crashes.
Pregnant women should always use safety restraints. Lap and shoulder belts provide maximum protection for an expectant mother and unborn child, but must be worn properly. A lap belt should be placed low, across the hips and upper thighs. The device should fit snugly over the pelvis and below the uterus. Belts should never be placed over the abdomen.
The shoulder belt should be adjusted for a snug fit and placed between the breasts. If the belt cuts across the neck, women should try repositioning the vehicle seat or lower the anchor point. If a lap belt becomes too short to cross the thighs, extenders are available from the majority of automobile dealers.
Air bags combined with lap and shoulder belts provide the best protection from death and injury in a car crash. In a front end crash, supplemental air bags prevent the upper body from striking the vehicles interior, such as the steering wheel or windshield.
It is important to remember that air bags are supplemental and are designed to be used with lap and shoulder belts. If pregnant women are driving, they should be at least 10 inches from the steering wheel.
People may need to try repositioning the driver’s seat and/or aiming the steering wheel up and away from the stomach. If the vehicle has passenger side air bags, move the seat as far away from the dashboard as possible.
Late in the third trimester, a woman should avoid driving if she cannot move her body away from the steering wheel.
With or without air bags, a crash may send the mother-to-be flying into the steering wheel with enough force to injure her or the unborn child. A doctor can tell a pregnant woman how long she should continue to drive.
New mothers often ride in the back seat with a baby placed in a rear facing infant seat. Unfortunately, many times the new mothers are riding unrestrained in the motor vehicle.
In a traffic accident, unrestrained passengers are thrown around in the vehicle and can injure or even kill other occupants.
The force of an unrestrained mother involved in a 30 mile per hour crash can exceed several thousand pounds. The figure represents enough force to kill or injure the mother along with her young child.
Expectant mothers should prepare in advance for the ride home from the hospital.
Right from the very start, infants should be restrained properly in a vehicle.
The biggest step in protecting an infant must be made before the child’s birth.
The step is purchasing a car safety seat that meets federal safety standards and a device that will fit a newborn.
Infant only seats fit newborns well and the safety devices are relatively easy for parents to handle.
If a convertible car seat is chosen, parents should avoid purchasing one with a tray or shield. A tray or shield may prevent the youngsters from being snugly restrained in the seat.
Reading the instructions that accompany the safety seat is important. The instructions will explain the proper use of the safety restraint device and provide information as to what children the seat is designed for.
If parents have a premature infant, a special safety seat may need to be purchased in order to provide protection for the baby. A doctor will be able to determine whether purchasing a special seat is necessary.
Often times, newborn babies are too small to fit snugly in a child car seat. Receiving blankets work well in remedying the problem. Roll the blankets lengthwise and place on both sides as well as around the head of the newborn.
If a car seat accessory is purchased, parents should beware of liners and pads that are too thick or ones that prevent the harness from fitting snugly over the infants shoulders and the chest clip from fitting at armpit level.
Thick blankets, liners or pads can compress during a crash, causing the harness to loosen which may allow the baby to be ejected from the seat.
Many times, parents bundle up the newborn in thick clothing and blankets to ensure that the infant stays warm.
When traveling however, a parent must check to make sure that the safety seat harness is placed snugly over the shoulders and between the child’s legs. Do not allow clothing to interfere with the safety device.
Blankets should also be used with caution when placing a child in a safety seat.
Blankets should never be placed underneath the seat harness.
After properly securing the infant in the car seat, blankets may then be placed over the infant for additional warmth.
Expectant mothers should focus on using safety precautions while pregnant to ensure safety to both themselves and the unborn child.
The appropriate motor vehicle passenger safety precautions must also be practiced after the child is born in order to effective protect the infant.
Carbon County residents may direct questions regarding safety belts and pregnancy, car safety seats, special needs seats and air bags to the Utah Highway Safety Office, 5263 S. 300 West Suite 202, Salt Lake City, UT 84107.
Residents may also contact the highway safety office by telephone at 801-293-2480.

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