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Special seat belt for pregnant women hits the market

Posting in Design

While no one would dispute that seat belts do save lives, it's apparent that they weren't designed with expectant mothers in mind. For a pregnant woman, the safety feature presents a fraught conundrum because the straps tend to be positioned in a manner which, if an accident were to happen, could actually cause real harm to the fetus.

And so born out of this somewhat overlooked driving hazard was the piXie Harness, a seat belt designed to not only protect the mother-to-be, but also the passenger in the womb. Instead of strapping in diagonally from one side, it secures the passenger or driver using four separate straps that connect at a central point above the abdomen, forming a harness (hence the name). It doesn't replace the car's seat belt, but can be thought of as a contraption that modifies it.

After spending seven years developing and testing the design, British inventor Stephen Weston has recently begun raising funding through Crowdcube.com, a crowd-sourcing platform based in the U.K. He's also taking orders through his company's website at pregnancyseatbeltharness.com.

According to a report on the BBC, Weston's wife Lesley suggested the idea to him after hearing reports about a peculiar court case in which a pregnant woman was prosecuted for not wearing a seatbelt. The woman says that she chose not to buckle up because she was worried the straps would harm her unborn child. In the U.K., all people are required by law to wear a seat belt. The controversy brought to light a concern that, while quite common, hasn't been sufficiently addressed by car manufacturers and regulators. A survey conducted by Loughborough University and Bolton University showed that 65 percent of pregnant women believed that the diagonal strap posed a threat to the fetus.

Although British authorities have established guidelines for how pregnant should wear a seat belt to avoid hurting the fetus, adjusting them is challenging in that every woman' body is different. Weston also cites research that points to car accidents as the leading cause of accidental fetal deaths. In fact, an accident at speeds as slow as 15 miles per hour can cause a miscarriage.

The piXie harness has undergone rigorous testing in collaboration with crash experts at Bolton University. It costs around $330 and can be shipped worldwide.

— By on February 21, 2013, 7:37 PM PST

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure