Just as new parents childproof their homes with outlet caps to prevent fingers from getting caught in electrical sockets or safety gates to prevent tumbles down stairs, they must play it safe with their cars, too. “New attention is being paid to styling, safety, interior space and performance in the automobile industry,” says Brian Chee, an automotive expert from Autobytel Inc, an online car resource. That’s good news for families who are expecting and parents – they can expect more from new cars.

For pregnant drivers, there are a few extras to look for when buying a new car or add to the car(s) you already own. They include:

m Adjustable foot pedals: They allow you to sit back 3 inches from the wheel.

m A tilting steering wheel:
A pregnant belly can obstruct your turning capabilities or cause you to sit back further than is prudent, so a tilting wheel is important once you reach the third trimester. Tilting steering wheels are standard on newer models, but if you’re driving an older car, inspect its steering gear.

m Airbags: “The airbag has been toned down since it first came out,” says Brendan Tobin, an independent consultant who trains workers in the automotive industry on how and why their products work. If you are concerned about an airbag’s impact, look for a car with dual-stage airbags which have sensors that determine whether to send out a single- or dual-stage reaction, tempering the explosivity of the airbag.

m Safety belt specs:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that during an accident, safety belts redistribute impact to the stronger parts of your body and slow your body’s movement. They recommend that pregnant drivers place the lap belt under the belly and across the hips, with the shoulder strap across the center of the chest.

If you’re looking to modify a car that you already own, you can try the dealership where you bought your car or talk to your car’s manufacturing company about specifics. But if you want to research on your own, here are a few places where you can get what you need to make your car pregnancy- and baby-friendly.

Foot pedal extensions: www.autopartssearch.biz



Safety belt lengtheners: www.autolivaftermarket.com



Tilt steering wheel: www.buy-steering.com

POST-PREGNANCY CARS

After pregnancy, there’s a whole new set of road rules. When kids arrive, safety and comfort are still top priorities. Here are a few things to look for:

m Test the tailgate or trunk. Pay attention to whether you’re comfortable toting a stroller, toys and baby gear.

m Ask about childproof features. Back-door locks and window-lock options will keep child’s hands from opening doors while the car is in motion or fingers from getting caught in automatic windows.

m Eye some entertainment. Systems like VisuaLogic’s headrest monitors for movie-watching or Eclipse’s multi-talented entertainer (with a touch control display that allows you to choose where the audio should play, as in “rear left only”) can keep your passengers – and the driver – content on the road.






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