The Baby on Board signs took off as soon as they were created in 1984. Picture: iStock
The Baby on Board signs took off as soon as they were created in 1984. Picture: iStock

Real reason ‘Baby on Board’ signs exist

BABY ON BOARD signs - you see them everywhere nowadays but what many may not know is its true meaning and how the signs became a global phenomenon.

The story

There was a horrible car accident where a woman was pulled from her car unconscious, but it wasn't until some time later that authorities discovered the body of a baby under the front passenger-side dash. So someone came up with the idea of displaying a sign to alert emergency services to search for an infant in the event of an accident.

Horrible story, isn't it? Thankfully that's all it is. An urban legend.

Now for the real story

In 1984, former real estate investor from Massachusetts in the US Michael Lerner cautiously drove his 18-month-old nephew home and noticed that people were driving recklessly around him.

Likely to have been going slow in order to ensure the safety of his young passenger, others on the roads around him were tailgating and overtaking, causing him to consider a way to communicate his important cargo to others.

"For the first time, I felt like a parent feels when they have a kid in the car," he said.

He had the idea to market a "baby on board" sign to "encourage drivers to use caution when approaching cars with younger passengers".

At this point he was introduced to sisters Patricia and Helen Bradley.

The sisters had seen a version of a safety sign for car windows in Europe and had limited success with marketing the idea back in the United States.

Michael saw a business opportunity and struck up a licensing deal for the rights to the product from the sisters.

He went on to start the company Safety 1st and using his contacts in the retail industry, he started pitching to big department stores.

The car accessories took off. They sold 10,000 signs within the first month. The demand ramped up and within nine months, the company were selling 500,000 signs a month. According to their website, "this iconic sign has now proudly hung in millions of cars. uniting families everywhere and celebrating parenthood since 1984."

A spokesman for NSW police confirmed to the NRMA that the sign is not for emergency services "but more of a notice to other drivers.

"Anyone using these signs must ensure they are not obstructing the driver's view."