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The urban legend behind those ‘Baby on Board’ signs

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Thank goodness these tragic stories aren't true!

We’ve all seen those “baby on board” signs, and some of us might even have them in our car. But did you know that there’s an urban legend about the history of these innocuous signs?

According to myth-busting site Snopes.com, there are two versions of the urban legend floating around the internet. You may have heard this one:

Some years ago, there was a car crash in Canada. The police located adult and child members of a family trapped in the crashed car, rescued them and sent them to hospital to recover. The car was towed to an impounding yard, and the following day police discovered a baby’s body frozen to death but otherwise uninjured under one of the seats.

A campaign was then started in Canada to alert rescuers to the fact that there was a “baby on board,” which needed to be located in the event of a crash. If a baby is not on board, the sign is removed.

Or this one:

Years ago, I heard a story about WHY the signs were created but only once, and I wonder if it is true. The story was that a serious car accident occurred and an unconscious woman was removed from the vehicle. The front of the car was badly damaged and it wasn’t until later (vague time frame) that a car seat with a dead infant was discovered under the front dash of the passenger side.

Or, like me, you might have heard a mishmash of the two. But both of these “tragic backstories” are demonstrably false.

The real story is more mundane. A Massachusetts woman saw a similar sticker in a car when she was on holiday in Germany, and believed there was a market for them in America. So she and her sister started a company PHOB to market the stickers stateside.

However, they had only limited success until they partnered with entrepreneur Michael Lerner. Lerner heard about their sign after telling friends about the aggressive driving he encountered while driving his infant nephew home, and decided it was a product worth backing.

Lerner eventually bought out PHOB and changed the company’s name to Safety 1st, which you’re probably familiar with. Safety 1st is now one of the best-known baby safety brands, marketing everything from cabinet latches to car seats — making the history of these signs less urban legend and more uniquely an American success story.

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