Baby On Board Signs
By Patrick Mondout
In the mid-Awesome80s, a new road sign started appearing - this time inside
our cars. These signs, which attached to the inside of a window via a
small suction cup, warned other road warriors about the contents of your
car. At first, they simply read "Baby on Board" (so annoying
today that we will hereafter refer to them simply as "BoB"). By
1986 it had become a full-fledged fad with millions sold. Before the
Awesome80s were over, there were literally hundreds of variants (see image
on right) in the closeout section of your local K-Mart.
Where Did They Come From?
A company called 1st Safety began marketing them to parents of young
children in late 1985. They were supposed to warn others drivers to drive
with caution because there was a baby inside. Like I'm supposed to notice
the sign and swerve into the oncoming 18-wheeler instead of rear-ending
the Minivan or Volvo with the ubiquitous BoB sign! Yeah, right!
A more sensible use was for emergency crews who would look frantically
for the "missing" kid when they came to the scene of an accident
with a BoB sign and no kid.
Safety Feature or Hazard?
Not long into the fad, some raised concerns about the safety of the
signs themselves. In an effort to get the lead-foot behind them to back
off, mothers were putting these little signs in areas of the car that
obstructed their view thus making it even more likely they'd get into an
accident. Legislation was even proposed in a few states regarding the
positioning of these signs.
Parody on Board
The first variants of the sign warned of other hazards, such as
"Student Driver on Board." But then the clever folks stepped in
and started making parody signs warning of such hazards as "Mafia
Hitman On Board," "Drunk Driver on Board," and
"Mother-In-Law in Trunk." Copy-cats and parodies are usually
sign that a fad is about to run its course and while millions were sold in
1986, it was passť to have one in your car by 1987. In 1985, having one
of these implied that you cared about your baby and was met with approval
by fellow drivers. By 1988, they were no longer seen as a safety necessity
and the parodies were no longer funny.
Where Are They Now?
Check your local landfill (or eBay - check our links to the right and
below). First Safety still markets "Baby on Board" and
"Child on Board" signs though sales are somewhat less brisk than
they were in 1986.
As with the Davy Crockett fad of the 1950s or the Pet
Rock fad of the Super70s, the Baby on Board fad never came back. Thus
we were spared the "O.J. on Board," "Osama on Board,"
"Dot Com Billionaire on Board" and "White House Intern on
Board" variations. (If a light just went off in your head, please put
down the crack-pipe and step away from the keyboard!)