Virginia Leads Research Efforts in Making Vehicles Safer for Pregnant Women
Ford Motor Company is funding research at
Virginia Tech’s School of Biomedical Engineering and Science that will help automakers to develop technology to protect pregnant women
and their unborn children from personal injury in Virginia while driving
or riding in motor vehicles.
States, like Virginia, are not required to report fetal deaths as a component
of their accident data; however, it is estimated that anywhere from 300-1,000
unborn babies die each year in car collisions. This fatality rate is significantly
higher that the fatality rate of the next age group, infancy-four years,
as stated by head of the Virginia School, Stephen Duma. He states that
“the biggest danger in a crash is
placental abruption, in which the placenta tears from the uterine wall. This causes bleeding
in the mother, with the danger of hemorrhage, and also cuts off the blood
supply to the baby.
One of the biggest problems for pregnant women is the steering wheel. Women
sit too close to the steering wheel, and their abdomen compresses into
their spine upon impact in an auto accident, a serious problem for mom
and baby. Improper seat-belt use also contributes to this condition. Pregnant
women should keep at least 4-5 inches between their bellies and the steering
wheel. If this cannot be accomplished based on the range of the driver’s
seat and length of the driver’s legs, pedal extensions should be
considered. Also, correct seat belt placement is critical to safety and
prevention of injury in a Charlottesville auto accident, for example.
Pregnant women should always make sure that their seat belt sits below
their bellies, low over the pelvis bones.
The main goal of the Virginia Tech study is to decrease injury and fatalities
of pregnant women and their unborn babies in Virginia and throughout the
United States through sophisticated advances in seat belt, steering wheel,
and air bag design. A pregnant crash dummy dubbed “MAMA 2B” has a uterine area filled with fluid which is analyzed for pressure
changes upon impact in a crash. Computerized, mathematical models are
also being developed which simulate what happens to the “placenta,
the baby’s skeleton and the baby’s brain” during a crash.
Technological advances as a result of the study are expected to appear
in vehicles anywhere from 5-15 years from the present.