September 17, 2002

U.S. study shows pregnant women involved in at least 1 in 100 car crashes

Pittsuburgh, Pennsylvania – Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Injury Research and Control (CIRCL) reported that at least one in 100 pregnant women in the United States will have been involved in a police-reported car crash.

The researchers obtained their data from the National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Using figures from police-reported crashes, the researchers found that on average, almost 33,000 pregnant women were involved in a car crash every year between 1995 and 1999.

“These results clearly demonstrate that more research needs to be done in order to protect both pregnant women and their fetuses,” said Harold B. Weiss, M.P.H., Ph.D., associate director of CIRCL, assistant professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of this study.

“Furthermore, little research has focused on longer-term developmental outcomes of infants and children who had previously been involved in car crashes while in the womb.”

Pregnant and non-pregnant women between the ages of 15 to 39 were compared by age, whether or not they were driving at the time of the accident, seat- belt use and treatment received after the crash. Belt use and seating position were examined according to the woman’s trimester.

The highest rate of car crashes occurred among younger women, those between the ages of 20 to 29, who are in their peak childbearing years.

The study also references a National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration study that showed between 1975 and 1990 the number of women drivers involved in fatal car crashes have soared by more than 60 percent, primarily because women are driving more. Given the tens of thousands of babies involved in car crashes and the possible impact of these crashes on fetal development and subsequent child health, Dr. Weiss and co-author Stephen Strotmeyer, M.P.H., stress that more needs to be done to track, understand and prevent pregnancy-related car crashes.

CIRCL is a program involving multiple departments in the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Public Health, and the schools of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Social Work and Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh. The centre conducts injury control research, disseminates information on injuries, provides training for health care professionals and informs the public and community leaders on injury control measures. It is one of 11 centres in the United States to receive an official designation as an injury control research centre by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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