The drive home from the hospital after my daughter’s birth was utterly nerve-wracking. We hadn’t yet put up our Baby on Board sign, and, in my post-labour, brand-new-parent state of mania, it seemed that everyone in possession of a vehicle was hellbent on using our car as target practice for various road offences.
Thankfully, nothing actually happened on the homeward journey that day, and we all arrived at the front door fully intact – but a little frazzled.
I’ve become (slightly) less nervy about travelling with my babe in tow these days, but I’ve never driven without a Baby on Board sign since our first time on the road together.
The BOB signs – and their various incarnations, such as Little Princess, Little Dude, Cheeky Monkey and Grandkids On Board – are visible in countless cars worldwide. And yet not everyone is clear on the original purpose of the sign.
The idea came about more than 30 years ago, when Michael Lerner was driving his 18-month-old nephew home. In a very similar scenario to my own experience, Lerner recalls: “People were tailgating me and cutting me off,” he says. “For the first time, I felt like a parent feels when they have a kid in the car.” And so the Baby On Board sign was born, with the intention of discouraging road-users from aggressive driving in proximity of baby and child passengers.
For all its helpful intent, however, the signs can actually be a hindrance to safe driving; based on a survey conducted by Confused.com, 46 per cent of a poll of 2000 drivers regarded them as a hazard. If placed incorrectly, signs can obstruct blindspots. (But the same goes for any other signage or paraphernalia festooning your vehicle. If your car looks more like a decoupage project than a mode of transportation, you may have a problem.)
Another function of the signs, although not the original point of them, as some assume, is to assist emergency services in accident situations – paramedics will automatically search the car and the surrounding area for a child if there is a Baby on Board sign on display. Obviously, if there’s no child in the car, that’s precious time wasted that could be used to aid adult passengers in need.
Yet many parents clearly don’t know this. According to a survey carried out by car hire company Flexed.co.uk, which is trying to raise awareness of the issue –
– Only 1 % of parents with Baby on Board signs removed it when they were driving without a child in the back
– 99% said they didn’t think it mattered, or weren’t aware of this use of the Baby on Board signs
Using the Baby On Board sign as a deterrent to other motorists, as well a signal to emergency personnel can save a life – if done correctly.
The advice is simple – if your child is not in the car, take the sign down. And employ the old de-clutter mantra when deciding what should go in your car; if you don’t use it, you don’t need it. A gazillion toys, empty tissue boxes and last month’s dry-cleaning slowly desiccating under the rear window probably don’t belong there. And put any necessary signs/stickers where they won’t obstruct your view.