The risk of crash is ever present for any road user, however risks specific to women when they are pregnant remain to be fully understood.
A recent article in Accident Analysis and Prevention estimated the risk of being a pregnant driver in a crash for nearly 900 000 thousand pregnant women (>= 20 weeks gestation) in North Carolina from 2001-2008. The pregnant women most at risk of being drivers in serious crashes were younger, which unsurprisingly corresponds to the increased risk found for women who were less-educated. Forty percent of the crashes resulted in injury to the pregnant driver, and nearly half the crashes occurred between 20 and 27 weeks gestation (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23545268).
A well-written article featured a couple of weeks ago in The Atlantic Cities features recent pregnancy-related research undertaken in New Zealand (see http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/03/should-pregnant-women-be-warned-about-health-risks-driving/4970/). Professor Hank Weiss features, discussing the risks experienced by pregnant women who travel in motor vehicles. He highlights that driving exposure for pregnant women has increased by 40% over the last decade. Most importantly, there is a need to educate pregnant women regarding their road crash risks, the need for safe seat belt use (low across the hips), and seeking alternatives (such as other persons running errands) are recommended where possible. Having spent 18 months pregnant myself, and commuting great distances regularly due to the rural nature of my residence, I was not aware of these risks and I am thankful that everything turned out okay in my situation. Other pregnant women have not fared as well. Each of my pregnancies entailed multiple contacts with a variety of health care professionals, any of whom could – and, based on these research findings, should – have raised the issue of road safety with me.
Professor Weiss highlights another issue pertinent not only to pregnant road users, but to injury prevention more broadly: the difficulty in identifying pregnant women and injured foetuses in crash and surveillance data. Such difficulties mask the extent of the problem, thereby undoubtedly hampering intervention efforts which could prevent and/or minimise injury to some of our most vulnerable road users.