Pregnant women were 42 percent more likely to be
involved in a motor vehicle accident that sent them to an emergency
room, compared to when they weren’t carrying a child, researchers
“A normal pregnancy is usually accompanied by a lot of fatigue,
nausea, mood fluctuations, anxieties and distractions which may all
contribute to distracted driving,” Dr. Donald Redelmeier, the
study’s lead author from the University of Toronto, told Reuters
Redelmeier, who is also an internist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences
Centre in Toronto, said he got curious about the risk of vehicle
crashes during pregnancy, because pregnant women would ask about the
danger in other activities, such as riding a rollercoaster.
“Never once was I asked about road safety despite it being a larger
risk to mother and child,” he said.
For the new study, he and his colleagues analyzed data on all adult
women who gave birth in the Canadian province of Ontario between
April 2006 and March 2011.
They compared the women's crash rates before and after pregnancy to
see if there was a difference.
Over half a million women gave birth and accounted for about 8,000
crashes as drivers during that time.
The researchers found that the rate of accidents was about 4.6
crashes per 1,000 women before pregnancy, compared to 7.7 crashes
per 1,000 women during their second trimester.
The increased risk was present regardless of a woman’s background
and demographics. It also didn’t seem to matter whether the woman
already had children.
The crash rate fell before delivery and continued to fall after
birth, the researchers report in the Canadian medical journal CMAJ.
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While the study can’t say why the women’s risk of
car crashes increased during the middle of their pregnancies,
Redelmeier said it may have something to do with the symptoms that
result from wide fluctuations in hormones.
“That’s what the factor is for the neurological changes, which are
usually minor, but these minor changes can catch up to you when
you’re operating a motor vehicle,” he said.
Despite the increased risk, Redelmeier added that women shouldn’t
stop driving, because the crashes could be avoided by following
standard safety advice. That includes obeying speed limits, stop and
He added that doctors should remind pregnant women during routine
visits to be especially cautious when driving.
“If there is nothing more pressing that’s the time to take a moment
and mention the importance of road safety advice,” Redelmeier said.
“You don’t want any pregnant women ending up in my emergency
CMAJ, online May 12, 2014.
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