On the Beach

Friday, 30 March 2012

Baby on Board and Road Rage

I would say that I am not easily riled, but that would be a complete lie. I'm actually pretty chilled out on the surface (or so I like to think, my family and friends may disagree) but underneath this calm veneer I am seething mass of rage. I'd love to say that this is mostly about gross injustices, breaches of human rights and the thought of animals losing their habitats. If I'm honest, it is sometimes about those things but mostly it's about petty things that really get to me and then I just have to rant. Have to.

Today's rant is about "Baby on Board" signs in the back of cars. Ever since I noticed them, the sight of one can drive me into an apoplectic rage en par with driving behind a randomly stopping Cape Town taxi. The late comedian George Carlin described "Baby on Board" as "the 3 most puke inducing words that man has ever come up with". I couldn't agree more.

My beef with them is that they really have no point whatsoever (apart from to infuriate me). Before I embarked on the this treatise against these signs, I did my research on these signs in case it turned out they saved lives, stopped rhinos being poached or something. Well, they don't.

They were invented in America in 1984 and were ubiquitous by 1985, apparently, to encourage safe driving. By 1986, they were in decline in the States although they are most definitely in use in the UK today (with "charming" variations such a "little princess on board"). And, now I have seen them in Cape Town. As if I wasn't having a bad enough day already.

Parents and new parents especially, are such a ripe market for exploitation- they will spend any amount of money on something that stops the crying or protects the child- I should know. So maybe people buy this thing because they think it will protect their child.

I can't for the life of me imagine how they could save lives.Psychopaths, people who suffer from road rage, boy racers, anyone who is likely to feel like ramming your car, Cape Town "build your own car from 16 cars (brakes optional)" drivers, and Cape Town taxi drivers are really most unlikely to have their their savage hearts melted when they see the kooky little cartoon baby swinging on a sign from the rear windscreen "Ah", they'll think, "a baby on board, how cute." and take their foot off accelerator, giving you more distance. Really?! Sure, then they'll just stop and breastfeed your child as well.

I did a bit more online searching and discovered that one company that makes these abominations (and many "crazy variations") is doing so to provide a "giggle on the road". Now, I've thought about this- do I really need a giggle on the road? Should we really be allowing things on the roads that make drivers collapse into giggles? You can see this won't be a problem for me, but you get my point.

So, because I am a person with far too much time on my hands, I have tried to consider reasons for buying these things:

1. You buy it yourself so people have low expectations of your car. The "Baby on Board" sign explains why your car looks like a baboon troop had a party in a tuck shop.

2. You buy it yourself to serve as a warning to others for your driving i.e. to explain away why you keep turning around, waving your free fist with a face like thunder (trying to stop 2 kids fighting), why you slow down and look like a contortionist from the back (trying to retrieve sacred toy from foot-well because child actingmpossessed without it) etc.

3. Someone else buys it for you to warn others that you are a bad driver but thinks you are not self-aware enough to buy it for yourself.

4. Or, most depressing of all, someone just buys it for themselves or as a present because it is something to buy.

In Western society, we are wired and geared towards buying because that's what makes the economy grow. And we all want the economy to grow to make sure we have more money.... so we can buy more stuff. And the powers that be are very good at making us buy things- look at the proliferation of present buying events- people now buy Easter presents, people have baby showers before the baby is born and then people buy gifts for the baby once it is born too. There are now engagement parties with "engagement lists", followed stag and hen parties overseas, followed by a wedding and a "wedding list". I'm not sure why people need so much stuff, but somehow society has been convinced into it and people who can ill afford it are spending buying presents which they believe they are expected to buy. And so with so many events to buy for, it's not surprising that we resort to buying meaningless, disposable rubbish because we have bought everything else already.

I think one of the things that makes these signs get to me is that idea that you can somehow stop traffic because YOU have a baby in the car. Like you are the centre of the world and somehow, this dangling monstrosity in your rearwindow will change irresponsible behavior.

Or maybe I am taking this all far too seriously and far too personally and I should take it all as a giggle..

To that end I have some suggestions which would make me, and other parents laugh. Things that you only know if you're a parent: " 2 babies on board. Can't believe I didn't learn after the first one". Or: "3 babies on board: what the hell was I thinking?".

I've suddenly remembered the maternity T-shirts with "Baby on board" emblazoned on them.

I think I need to go and lie down.


  1. so, if I have a baby in my car, really, I have one, and I buy one of these sticker and put it in the back of my car, in the hopes that it will remind the driver in the car behind my car to keep a safe distance, why would that enrage you? Am I missing something here? I can understand you would be angry if you see this on a vehicle that has no business carrying a baby, like a gravel carrying dump truck or a taxi cab driver. Normal people would think twice to follow at dangerously close distance on the street if the possibility of a baby getting hurt in a vehicle collision. There is no use for those other drivers that you mentioned, but for the rest of the majority of the drivers on the street who are sane and who just got impatient becuase the traffic is slow or I am driving at speed limit (slow), this baby on board sign slows them down, that includes me. Please respond, I am not sure why you would become enraged at the sign of the baby on board sign.


    1. Hi Charles,

      Thanks for your comment, always nice to have some interaction.

      Firstly, my post (as with almost all my posts) is not meant to be taken terribly seriously- I am prone to hyperbole. Secondly, I don't like the signs, and I think I explain why. Thirdly, they make no difference to a careful driver who keeps their distance anyway and wouldn't want to injure ANYONE (not just babies) and are they wasted on aggressive drivers.

      I just found this now: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2215925/Baby-Board-sign-caused-2m-road-accidents.html.

      It seems whilst some drivers believe that the signs make them safer, that is not necessarily the case.

      It's great that you have one and that it makes you feel safer. I don't have one and I don't intend to get one. It's a wonderful world where we can all express ourselves, don't you think?

      Thanks again.