The labor pains were coming, so Jessica Hodges got going. The 26-year-old bank teller from Burke sped toward Inova Fairfax Hospital, but before she got there, the law got her — 57 mph in a 35 zone. Reckless driving.
Hodges's labor pains subsided — they turned out to be a false alarm — but the agony from her ticket is mounting. She was found guilty of the July 3 offense and given a $1,050 civil fee on top of a judge-imposed $100 fine and court costs, making her one of the first to be hit with Virginia's new "abusive driver fees," which have been greeted by widespread public outrage.
"It's crazy," said an unregretful Hodges. "Having a baby's more important. Of course I'm going to speed."
Now hear this: despite what Fred Flintstone did when Wilma went into labor, there is no reason to speed to the hospital just because a pregnant woman starts having contractions. First, almost all labors last hours, not minutes. Second, in general, the longer one stays away from the hospital, the better. One reason C-section rates are so high in the U.S. is because overeager soon-to-be mothers (and their worried partners) insist on going to the hospital during the early stages of labor, and many hospitals have formal or informal policies of not letting a woman labor there for more than a certain number of hours.
If a pregnant woman is in a safe indoor location and the baby is actually coming out, she still shouldn't rush, or be rushed to the hospital. Call 911 instead; better to give birth at home with paramedics around than to give birth in a car stuck in traffic with no medical assistance in the vicinity. (I'm not making this stuff up; I learned it all while my wife was pregnant. FWIW, I was born prematurely on the bedroom floor after a less than ten-minute labor, with the physician who fortunately lived across the street assisting after the birth.)
Oh, and if a woman is sufficiently deep into labor that it makes sense to go to the hospital, for God's sake don't let her drive herself there! A woman having massive contractions every few minutes while worrying about her impending delivery has to be the very definition of a distracted driver. The new Virginia fines for speeding are excessive, but kudos to the judge in this case for not buying the "I was in false labor so I had to speed" excuse. (The "I have two babies at home and really can't afford a $1,000 fine," on the other hand, seems like grounds for a reduction of the fine. For that matter, reckless driving is more than 20 mph over the speed limit, and I wonder whether the average radar detector, under actual working conditions, is sensitive enough to have a margin of error of less than 4%.)