The almost ubiquitous ‘Baby on Board’ car sticker – used by a million parents to brag about their tiny offspring, or to hope that other road users will overtake carefully – are an important indicator for emergency first responders and should be removed when there isn’t a child in the car.
That’s the important advice from a national car leasing company which has found that virtually no parent takes the sticker out when they’re not with their baby, while some leave the sign in their car years after it no longer relevant. Even when you buy a used car, a freecarcheck can help you know more about the vehicle and keep you out of any such risk.
The Flexed.co.uk company spoke to one paramedic who says valuable time is often wasted looking for a baby in a car crash that was never there in the first place, meaning the other patients may be suffering as a consequence.
“It may seem a relatively trivial issue to some,” says Flexed.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “But it could become a life-or-death situation in the event of a serious road accident. It’s one of those urban myths that are actually true – emergency services really do take these signs as gospel.”
Hall says that many new parents miss the point of these stickers: “Parents aren’t supposed to be bragging about their new arrival, nor are they intended to make other road users drive more carefully around them – that’s not what ‘Baby on Board’ signs are for.
“They exist to show emergency services or rescuers there could be a little one in the back seat after an accident.”
Flexed.co.uk asked paramedic Jamie Shuttleworth whether the stickers are used by first attenders to identify whether cars may have a baby trapped inside.
“Yes they are. But if you don’t want to waste our time, take them out when not traveling with baby.”
Shuttleworth recalls one incident where a car was ripped in half, and the emergency services spent around 20 minutes at the scene searching adjacent fields and hedges for a baby that wasn’t there – all because of the presence of the baby sign, toys and other items.
“Obviously, if you’re conscious it’s not a problem because we can just ask,” Shuttleworth told us, “But if it’s bad then we have to presume the worst. If it’s at night they have to get the police chopper out to look for heat signatures.”
Different police forces give different figures, but it typically costs £1,600 per hour to keep a police helicopter in the air, all for a car sticker that can cost less than a pound.
However, after approaching a number of drivers displaying these signs in their cars, Flexed.co.uk found:
- Only one per cent removed the ‘Baby on Board’ sign when they were driving without a child in the back
- The other 99 per cent said they didn’t think it mattered, or didn’t know of the ‘Baby on Board’ sign’s real use
Typical of comments from parents were Louise, 32: “I drop Stephen off at the child-minder in the morning, and then head off to work. It’s too much trouble to take the sticker out of the car every time, isn’t it?”
Rosie, 24: “They’re not to make other drivers slow down? I didn’t know that.”
Lucio, 40, told us: “Ours are seven and nine now. Now you’ve come to mention it, I suppose we’d better take the sticker out, they’re hardly babies.”
We also found one gentleman whose story speaks for itself: “I bought the car second hand last month with the sticker still attached,” said Brian, 67, “Apart from the grandchildren, I haven’t even got a baby.”
While Flexed.co.uk supports the idea of warning emergency services that there may be a helpless child in the back of a car who is unable to undo buckles and escape from a road accident, the company urges parents to act responsibly.
“Get one that’s easily removed, and get into the habit of doing so when traveling without the young ones.
“It’s not an urban myth – removing that sign could save paramedics’ time, and could save a life.”