I remember my mother nursing my brother in the front seat of our car while I rolled around in the back seat. Seat belts were something we only used when we were going a long distance or on the freeway. I always slept on my stomach so that I wouldn't choke if I spit up. I think this may have been a rationale encouraged by the rash of celebrities who drowned in their own vomit after OD-ing. My mom certainly wasn't negligent, it was just how things were done in the '70s.
Today, however, the list of items moms are expected to protect against makes the Ten Commandments look like a remedial course in obedience. Latch systems, back is best, breast is best, PBA-free, lead in toys, avoiding all alcohol/mercury/cold cuts while pregnant--these are the things today's moms have to learn upon entering motherhood.
To be sure, research in modern science and technology has made the world a safer place for babies and children. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a real concern--you having the champagne toast at your brother's wedding before you realized you were pregnant is not. I have a friend who tells this story: "When my mom was 3 days from her due date, she set down her highball glass, put out her cigarette, and went in for an X-ray. Only then did she learn that we were twins."
This friend (along with her brother) is a perfectly wonderful adult who suffers no ill effects of her mother's moderate indulgences while pregnant. I am in no way condoning a mom engaging in behavior she knows to be bad for her baby--but if, on occasion, you find yourself doing something that goes against the harping voices of the "experts" you can probably relax a little.
Life is full of danger--we do the best we can to protect our kids from it. But life is also full of joy and excitement. And I, for one, would hate to miss out on the adventure because I forgot to pack the hand sanitizer.