Is it Safe for Pregnant Women to Drive?

A lonely tree at Police Point Park, Medicine Hat, Alberta. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
A lonely tree at Police Point Park, Medicine Hat, Alberta. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

I found an interesting article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ July 8, 2014) regarding the above subject. Dr. Donald Redelmeier and his colleagues author the research paper titled, “Pregnancy and the risk of traffic crash.”

When a woman is pregnant there are a number of changes occurring in the body. These changes may contribute to increased driving error. The authors of the CMAJ article compared the risk of a serious motor vehicle crash during the second trimester to the baseline risk before pregnancy.

The authors analyzed women who gave birth in Ontario between April 1, 2006, and March 31, 2011. Certain groups of women were excluded from the study. The primary outcome was a motor vehicle crash resulting in a visit to an emergency department.

After analyzing all the data from the study, the conclusion was that pregnancy is associated with a substantial risk of a serious motor vehicle crash during the second trimester. The authors further suggested that this risk merits attention for prenatal care.

In a commentary associated with the article under the title, “High risk of traffic crashes in pregnancy: Are there any explanations?” Stephen J. McCall, and Sohinee Bhattacharya say that the World Health Organization classifies maternal deaths due to traffic crashes as coincidental and not related to the state of pregnancy. Others have argued that pregnancy is the root cause of such deaths, because pregnant women are more susceptible to crashes.

McCall and Bhattacharya make the following key points in their CMAJ commentary:
-Normal physiologic changes during pregnancy may increase sleep deprivation and stress, which may increase the likelihood of human error.
-Epidemiologic studies have shown an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes among women in their second trimester of pregnancy; these studies should be interpreted with caution because data on duration and frequency of driving, and on shared responsibility for crashes, were lacking.
-Further research into the biological mechanisms that may link pregnancy to car crashes is warranted.

So, like many things in medicine the jury is still out debating whether we should allow pregnant women to drive, especially during second trimester. Suffice to say whether you are male or female, pregnant or not, just drive carefully.

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