Ages & Stage: Pregnancy: Driving Tips for a Mom-to-Be

Driving while pregnant can be a very uncomfortable situation.
Many pregnant women worry that their belly is too close to the steering wheel, aren’t quite sure how to deal with the ill-fitting seat belt and are concerned about airbags and protecting their unborn child. Lauren Fix, mother of two and an automotive expert, offers tips to new and expectant mothers for safe and comfortable car rides.

Seat Belt Safety
Although sometimes unpleasant, Lauren says to always wear a seat belt. The proper way to wear a seat belt while pregnant is no different from any other time. Make sure that the lap belt is low and tight across your hips, not across your stomach. The shoulder belt should go across the middle of your chest and away from your neck. Many vehicles allow for adjustment of the belt at the car’s “B” pillar (the middle post over your shoulder).

Airbags
Airbags are proven to save lives — if they are used with seat belts and if the passenger is seated properly and the right distance from the airbags. Expectant mothers should be sure to sit up straight and keep at least 12 inches of clearance between the front airbags and their belly. Pillows or other cushions should not be used to change seating position; simply use the adjusters that are built into the vehicle.

Best Cars for Expectant Moms
Some vehicles are just easier to get in and out of than others. “When I was pregnant I had difficulty getting in and out of my husband’s pick-up truck,” says Fix. This might be an issue for many pregnant women. If there are no alternative choices, Lauren suggests keeping a step stool handy, but use extreme caution.

Here are some common questions for choosing the best cars for new moms:
What vehicle can hold all the gear that pregnant and new moms carry and which are the easiest to load and unload?
Look for low vehicles that are safe, such as crossover or sport utility vehicles; also, consider minivans and station wagons.

What auto will put the least pressure on your back?
Lower vehicles, but not too low, like CUVs, are best as you can get car seats in and out and are not too high so you don’t strain your back. This is personal — based on height and body structure.

Which vehicles are the easiest for installing a car seat?
Minivans are easiest so you can sit in the vehicle if needed and buckle in the belt.

As the kids grow — will this vehicle grow with it?
Kids love to look out the window at any age. Look for adjustable seats and never use a pillow or blanket to raise a car seat.

What are the safest vehicles to protect your children?
Always look for a five-star crash test rating for the front driver and passenger, as well as both sides for side impact protection. The safest vehicles have air bags in the front and side. Children travel safest when they wear their seat belts. You should set a good example. Car seats are the safest way for small children to travel as long as they are properly attached to the car.

Lauren Fix, “the Car Coach®,” is a nationally recognized TV automotive expert, an award winning author and is an authority on consumer issues.