Baby on Board…and Likely to Be Decapitated?

Hi Readers — Here’s a note from today’s mailbox. The lesson? If you can dream up ANY DANGER, no matter HOW RIDICULOUSLY REMOTE, you can try to scare a parent. It’s easy! It’s fun! It’s our new national pastime! — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’m currently pregnant with our first child, due in October. I’ve already aligned myself with Free-Range Kids, and I’ve been getting a kick out of how anti-Free-Range the pregnancy and infant industry is. It’s scary.

We had our first prenatal class, put on by a nurse at the local health unit. Awesome class. But they had some funny advice. Apparently it’s recommended NOT to have the Baby on Board signs suction cupped inside your vehicle as they become a projectile in an accident. And they can “decapitate your infant”. The nurse said that. Seriously. My husband and I laughed and now the other pregnant couples probably think we are child decapitators with a car full of projectiles (water bottles, sunshades and baby mirrors were also on the naughty list).

I get it. I do. No one wants to see a baby hurt because of something we didn’t think of. But why do we need to think of everything? The only time a tiny yellow sign will become a dangerous flying object is if you are in an accident. Maybe we should be more concerned about driving safely and less worried about what we have suction cupped to our windows. — Mom to Be

98 Responses

  1. How ridiculous it may seem I’ve seen a couple of test dummy videos that kind of support that theory.
    The thing is, you put your baby in a car seat so that it’s protected in case of an accident. The last thing you need then is to have a very sharp plastic object impale your baby.

    Baby mirrors would be exempt from this, since they’d be on your windshield and wouldn’t fly through the car, since they’re are already in the front.

  2. The force of impact required to decouple the sign from the window and send it forward with sufficient for to sever even a strand of hair is immense. So immense, think 80mph freight train, that all occupants would be turned into Jello about the same time one would hear the pop of the suction cups.

  3. Oh, the dangerous times our children grew up in: we allowed them to use pencils in the car! Even after being warned that said implements could become dangerous projectiles. Yes, they could have. But instead they were instruments of creativity.

    Our kids grew up in the days before one could plug a child into a DVD player and count on a couple of hours of silence, but we never dreaded long car rides with them. (Except when the car’s A/C broke on a hot summer vacation. Suddenly we discovered that our kids were not always travel angels. Neither were their parents.) They read books, wrote stories, played games, solved puzzles, and drew pictures. Even if i had young children now, I wouldn’t want a DVD player in the car.

    But I would want a pencil.

  4. Seriously? Has that ever actually happened???

    Personally, I didn’t use one of those things because I doubt other drivers really care or drive more carefully around babies. And these days with so many people texting while driving, I doubt they’d even notice it! So, it’s just one more thing NOT to waste your money on, but certainly not for fear of decapitation.

  5. It seems to be that even if it did detach and move fast enough and all that… it’d still have to the in the EXACT RIGHT PLACE and fly at the EXACT RIGHT ANGLE to even *touch* the kid.

  6. If you have KIDS, you have hundreds of potential projectiles on your car floor, in the cars seats, wedged under the car seats, on the cushions, in their laps…such is life with children.

  7. I was just informed that the roll-up sunshield could become a projectile and impale my daughter if I was in an accident going 60mph. I politely thanked the woman and drove off before I started laughing.

  8. Given that my daughter’s seat is now front-facing, I doubt she could get impaled or decapitated by anything.

    With an infant you do want to think about what’s behind/above the carseat location… but the amount of force required to detach something suction-cupped and then propel it forward at high velocity seems rather unlikely.

    While I understand the main point you’re making in the last paragraph, I do have to mention that driving safely is not an antidote to accidents – two summers ago I got rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic and there was nothing I could have done about it. Sure, it’s not going to happen often – but it’s worth giving some small consideration to that type of scenario.

  9. Truth is – anything in your car becomes a projectile when you are in an accident. Hubby and I were driving safely on semi-snow-covered roads a few days before Christmas and were hit by someone not driving so safely. The accident was pretty bad – car totaled – we were hit at about 60mph head-on and catapulted into the stone side of a bridge. Thankfully, none of our 4 kids were with us – and they usually are – this was an unusual daytime outing without them (toy shopping for the holiday). Anyway ….. I was hit in the head with something (still don’t know what it was – may have been cell phone – which, I believe, had been in a pocket) – we were both slammed sideways despite seatbelts – BUT the car really saved us (a VW for the record – remained in tact where it needed to). The point is, ANYTHING that wasn’t part of the car DID fly about – rattle around – detach -whatever (but more in a tornado-like pattern, it appeared – and @Sky – we, too, have a bunch of “kid stuff” in the car all the time). Oh – and that car coming at us at 60mph on slushy roads didn’t hurt either. Being on the road is always a bit of hazzard anyway, BUT…. does that mean that we should take off jewelry, baseball hats, buttons – anything that could “pop off” and hit the baby?!?! I think decapitation is pushing it. I would buy that it might hit a child, but, again, plenty of hazzards out there anyway. I do have a true story of someone arriving at an ER with his cigarette up his nose after an accident, however.

  10. I agree that the idea of a sign decapitating a kid is pretty silly, but I have to depart from most of the rest of the commenters on this one. As Free Range parents, we _know_ that the most dangerous thing we do with our kids every day is take them for a ride in the car. We _know_ that car accidents are the leading cause of death for young people. We _know_ that we’re all good drivers (right?). But we still can’t control the other 70% of drivers who also believe that they are above average.

    So, I feel that since the likelyhood of getting into a car accident with my kids in the car at some point is pretty high, I would like to mitigate the danger as much as possible: our 19 month old still rides backward facing, and will do so until she can ask to be turned around, we specifically found car shades that are nothing more than a thick piece of soft plastic, the dog gets buckled into our car, we never drive after drinking even one drink, etc.

    The Free Range Kids philosophy _can’t_ be about dismissing EVERY warning that comes out about anything. What appeals to me about FRK in the first place is the statistical approach to safety: concentrate on the things that matter first, and worry less about the ones that are incredibly unlikely — like shark attacks. So let’s tone down the automatic scoff at any claim about keeping our kids safer — especially when it involves things that are actually likely to be dangerous to our kids.

    Thanks…

  11. Ok, but I do reserve the right to scoff at this one: http://www.thudguard.com/

    Maybe they need to develop one for kids to wear in the car to protect them from flying Baby-on-Board signs and pencils?

  12. I knew a guy who knew a girl who heard from her room-mate that this one time in a city they can’t remember that this guy was driving in his car or truck or on a bike and was caught it a freak windstorm and got a fleck of radioactive dust in his eye and went blind and passed the blindness on to his kids and now they live in a special home for radioactive blind kids who’s father is also blind.

    The moral of the story (to me) is that I need to stop talking to that guy anymore because he’s an idiot.
    🙂

  13. I think the biggest threat you might have if you put one of those Baby on Board signs in your car is that of being made fun of. Even your suction cup Garfield is laughing at you.

  14. That Thudguard video is hilarious! But … but … in their screenshot of upcoming products (click “2”) is that a thudguard toilet seat. I just don’t get it. What goes thud? In my house we always say “plop”.

    Regarding the Baby on Board sign I have to agree with MITBeta. We should recognize the stats and focus on the most likely things, but even protect against those in the proper balance of reasonableness. In almost all Free Range Kids discussion the 90/10 rule comes to mind. A little bit of reasonable precaution goes a long way towards protecting against the most legitimate types of concerns, and the other 90% of the fear & obsession provides very little added value and tends to leave you ignoring some other simple reasonable things you can do that also have high payoff.

  15. What’s actually the point of those Baby On Board signs (and signs or stickers with similar texts)? I’ve always wondered why people use those.

  16. I think those Baby On Board signs are a fantastic baby saver. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen one and thought.. “oh, gosh… thanks for letting me know. I *was* planning on driving into your car, but I guess I won’t now”.

  17. @Paul Bolle — I don’t know for sure… but I think it’s to alert the pedophiles so they can follow you home….?

  18. Is that Thudguard hat for real?? insane!

  19. Thud guard? You have got to be kidding. me. I couldn’t even keep socks on my sons. A hat ? Good gravy . . . Toddlers toddle. They get goose eggs. Part of growing up, and learning to try a bit harder the next time to slow down and keep your balance.🙂 What are the ears coming out of the top for? Are those walking handles?

  20. I hate those Baby on Board signs, but not because of the decapitation risk. Some people have way to much time on there hands thinking of horrible things that could happen.

  21. Let’s not have knives in our homes, or pencils or silverware, because a tornado might come through and blow them around and impale our children!

    As it’s, you know, destroying the entire house, and/or running trees through it and/or cars and/or anything it’s picked up on its way to you.

    In both situations, small flying objects that may or may not be sharp enough to cause damage are generally the least of your worries.

    On a side note, my local Babies R Us has a number of variations of the “Baby On Board,” such as “Princess on Board” or “Future Stud on Board.” I find them highly amusing.🙂

  22. I have no idea whether or not a baby on board sign can generate enough force in an accident to decapitate (do they even sell those any more, by the way? haven’t they been replaced by the new fad of family sticker doohickies? oh, sorry…wrong blog posting…) However…

    You really should minimize the amount of crap laying around in your car because they do become projectiles in an accident. Most people with kids have far too many things rolling around in their car that seriously could become airborne and cause injury in an accident. Maybe not decapitation but serious injury, depending on the object and the speed of the crash.

  23. forget the thudguard… we just use bubble wrap. it’s much more fun, too, because it goes “pop pop pop” whenever we pick him up

  24. When my kids were smaller the most dangerous possible projectile present in my car was fossilized french fries.

  25. Did they mention the cell phone you are texting or calling with can become a projectile? Doubt that’ll help much though. “Projectile” is a kind of fun fear-invoking word on its own. It conjures up images of weaponry, but can encompass any object flying through the air, e.g. rain, if you want to grab attention.

    @MITBeta – Since you like the statistical approach, humor me for a moment. In 2007, motor vehicle accidents accounted for 527 deaths for children 1-5, drowning at just under at 494. Congenital anomalies, 605; cancer, 457; homicide, 424. See http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10.html.

    Now let’s add that “more than two-thirds of these fatally injured children were riding with a drinking driver.”** As stated, you never drive after consuming any alcohol. So let’s adjust your MV “risk” down correspondingly to 527*(1-0.66)=174. Placing it below causes of other accidental deaths like fire, 240, and just above suffocation, 156. It is below congenital anomalies, cancer, homicide, and heart disease, 192.

    This assumes your child is a composite of all races and both sexes, which is likely not the case. If your child is white, the statistics may change a bit, for example drowning (407) becomes a greater cause of death than MV (376).

    I don’t mean to dismiss every warning, but I hope this may help in some small way to explain some of the apparent lack of concern about potential “projectiles” like “baby on board” signs. I simply don’t believe “baby on board” signs have enough mass to be physically capable of decapitating an infant. Damage an eye? Sure. Decapitate? No way, José. Please don’t think my scoff is automatic, although it was pretty close…😉

    **The year for the two-thirds figure does not appear to be 2007, but I assumed the proportion holds for the sake of investigation. See http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/childpas.htm.

  26. LOL. This one is funny. Really, just because she’s a nurse and she says that, you must believe her? She’s only human, with probably the same fears as most people, and who probably heard it from someone else and thought “hey, that’s possible”. So she in turn spreads the word. Don’t believe everything you hear, and if you think there is some concern, look into it yourself. I personally have never heard of any man, woman, or child being decapitated by a Baby On Board sign. As someone else said here, the amount of force it would take for that sign to dislodge and move so fast that it’s capable of decaptation, would have the car crushed like an accordion. Decapitation would just be an after thought.

    But according to physics, for an object to move fatally fast, it needs mass. That sign is almost as light as paper. Broken windshield glass has a better chance of penetrating flesh than that sign. Again, another WHAT IF, and another thing for paranoid people to worry about.

    There are many things in car that can fly around in an automotive collision (no such thing as car accidents) injuring passengers. If these worriers are so concerned, the ONLY sure fire way your child will be safe is to not have them in the car in the first place. But if your willing to risk your child’s life (insert sarcasm), remove every single loose object in the car, and I mean EVERYTHING. Or my favorite; reinforce the back of your child seat with titanium and kevlar. Add extra padding to the seats (front and back). But protective gear on your child, ie. helmet with a face shield, elbow and knee pads. And last but not least bolt or crazy glue that sign to your window, that way your guaranteed it will never “fly off the window”. 😉 Hell, why not just go all out and put them in a cage while they ride with you. lol

  27. It sounds like the sensible approach is something like this: don’t keep excess junk lying around in the car, because it could hurt someone. (That won’t stop most of us from doing it anyway, but really, it probably is good advice.)

    But don’t fear having something you otherwise would have good reason for having (which would probably NOT include those stupid signs) just because of what could possibly happen under exactly the right circumstances if these other things happened in just a certain way.

    IOW, make this decision like every other decision you make — by RATIONALLY assessing the degree risk and the value of taking it.

  28. “degree OF risk.”

  29. I totally agree with Lenore’s moral – it’s amazing how many people/companies feel that the best way to get a message across is scaring the daylights out of parents. Worrying about what MIGHT fly around a car IF there is an accident may very well distract a parent from other things they have control over, like making sure you packed the diaper bag/baby bottles and didn’t leave it on the driveway when you were putting the baby in the car🙂 I’m also surprised how many of us actually lived to have kids of our own, given all the warnings that have developed since we were non-seat-belted, back-windows-open riders in cars with no airbags. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the new safety developments our society has to offer; it’s their contribution to ‘over-worrying’ that I regret.

  30. It was only when my daughter was born that I understood the purpose of those baby on board signs: it’s not to remind other drivers to be extra cautious, but to warn them against the sleep-deprived, distracted new parent who’s probably not being the most alert driver, so please forgive and give wide berth.

    I often though it’s too bad those signs have become such a joke b/c one would have been handy to explain why I was slow at that advanced left turn signal or why I didn’t notice you wanted in to my lane.

  31. In my experience, people with that Baby on Board sign are truly awful drivers. I now take it as a warning to stay away and as a reminder that, sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. Perhaps you wouldn’t need to warn others of your “precious cargo” if you were a more competent driver!

  32. So funny that this should come up, because just a couple of days ago, my FB status read: Baby On Board translation- “Warning: The driver of this car is too busy keeping an eye on their baby in the rearview mirror to keep an eye on the road!”

    This after I passed a car with one of these signs that was weaving all over the highway. Baby On Board indeed. Thanks for the warning. I think a decapitation hazard is the least of our problems.

  33. Clearly there’s an untapped market for quilted baby on board signs – a true security blanket!

    I should tell my husband to clean all the potential projectiles (and fast food bags) out his car. It might actually happen in the next four month before the baby comes!

    Ugh, I guess I should sign up for those classes soon… Apparently you’re not allowed to just watch lamaze videos on youtube?

    @timkenwest: I just Googled “New Parent On Board” and didn’t get any matches. Clearly this is another untapped market!

  34. @ Jacquie: IMO, I don’t think these companies use fear to get the point across, but rather to make sales. It’s marketing 101. You have a product, in order to sell that product you need to make the consumer believe they want or need that product. What better way than fear. Be it fear of not fitting in, fear of looking fat, fear of danger. They make the paranoia of others work for them. When really, all it takes is common sense from the consumer. You have it all the time, and it’s free.

    @ Timkenwest: LOL! At least you are honest about it. Although, I don’t think ALL Baby On Board drivers are bad drivers, in my expereince, the majority I’ve come across are. Probably for all the reasons you and the others have pointed out. Again, there are no such things are automobile accidents. All collisions are caused by driver error. Accidents can be avoided, but it takes the competency of the drivers on the road.

  35. I agree with most of the mindset that you’re portraying on this site. We can’t raise our kids in constant fear and we can’t let those fears prevent our kids from being kids. For example, kids need to learn to be independent and make safe decisions on their own, and while we can guide and help them, we can’t hover over them all the time (or they’ll never learn). So yes, there are risks that we are willing to take as parents so that our children can experience life, grow, and learn lessons. However, some of the recent posts on this site seem really silly to me. No, it’s not likely that a “baby on board” sign will knock your child’s head off in an accident. No, your family sticker on your car will probably not lure a predator or serial killer. But are either of these items really necessary? No. Why risk your family’s safety (even remotely) over a stupid sticker or sign? What I like about free range parenting is that it’s all about making the right choices for your family – weighing the risks vs the benefits – and in turn teaching our kids to make those same choices for themselves. And while letting your kids play at the park alone has obvious benefits, adorning your vehicle with silly stickers does not. Why are debates like these taking up space here?

  36. @Eric: “But according to physics, for an object to move fatally fast, it needs mass. That sign is almost as light as paper. ”

    That’s what the NASA engineers investigating the Columbia tragedy thought initially also. How much damage can a piece of foam do, anyway?

  37. I’m constantly driving around with a Barbie in the car. Ack, my kid might actually be impaled by one of those legs or arms if I get into a collision!

    I agree with pentamom here. Keeping the unnecessary junk in the car to a minimum is a good goal, not just for safety reasons, but also because it allows your coworkers to actually get into the car with you for lunch without first having to stand in the hot Georgia sun while you shift all the junk around for space (or is that just me).

    I’d also add to keep the stupid signs out of the car too. Not because of any injury concerns but just because they’re dumb. But I guess that is just personal opinion.

  38. Wait a minute! I thought the whole point of the Baby On Board sign was to PREVENT you from having an accident in the first place! Like mvb wrote, the other drivers will see it and automatically not run into you.

    Was that nurse really saying a safety device doesn’t work?

  39. “Why risk your family’s safety (even remotely) over a stupid sticker or sign? … Why are debates like these taking up space here?”

    Because I’m opposed to the idea of perpetuating the belief that these items are even a remote threat to my family’s safety. They’re just not. I doubt that you ca find evidence of even a single baby being decapitated by Baby on Board signs or a single pedophile choosing his victim based on family stickers. I agree that these items should not be worthy of discussing but the end of the debate should be in stopping the claims that these innocuous items are a threat to safety, not in Lenore objecting to that myth being spread around.

    I think both the items are incredibly stupid and would not own either. I don’t want one of those baseballs or soccer balls with my kid’s name in it either. However, some people do like them. People who want them should not be stopped by fears of some nonexistent dangers.

  40. I am too lazy to have all that clutter in my car.

    But one thing I do wonder about is portable DVD players. Also those fancy little desk-like things people buy their kids so they can have something to do while in their car seat. (Watching the world go by through the window is no longer sufficient.) Those look/sound like huge safety issues in case of a crash.

    Personally, I don’t even let my kids eat or drink in the car, let along play with sharp objects. There’s a time and place for all of that, and the car is not it. I need to focus on the road, not on who’s poking or choking, and I have no desire to clean shrapnel up at the end of every trip.

    What ever happened to good old-fashioned backseat sibling abuse??

  41. The Columbia analogy isn’t a really good one because space shuttles are subjected to unique stresses and must be preserved 99.99% intact (in certain respects) in order to stand those stresses.

    A piece of foam can’t hurt your baby the way it hurt Columbia because your baby doesn’t need perfect skin integrity to avoid dying. No doubt the flying baby sign could badly scratch or maybe even lacerate your baby under the right conditions, but the force necessary for decapitation is QUITE another matter. The point is that it’s silly to make up highly unlikely scenarios and even worse to abuse physics to concoct them.

    Donna — exactly.

  42. Well said pentamom. I’d also like to add, in my limited knowledge of material composition, and atmospheric effects on objects, I too can’t see foam as a dangerous material. But considering the altitude the shuttle was in, I’m assuming any exposed, unprotected material (even foam), can freeze up. Causing it’s density to increase, there by adding more mass to it’s original composition. Now add the speed of which the shuttle was going at 3000 mph (that’s much, much faster than any car collision), and as pentamom mentioned given that there isn’t any room for error on the integrity of the craft, that foam might as well be a bullet (moving 6x it’s normal speed) piercing the hull. And in space flight that is catastrophic.

    But we aren’t talking about the shuttle, we are talking about a run of the mill family car.

  43. I was merely trying to point out that intuition isn’t always right. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe it’s likely that a sign will decapitate a baby, but it could seriously injure one in the LIKELY event of a car accident. It’s an unnecessary risk, in my humble opinion. The forces involved in a car accident are clearly non-trivial. This is the same reason why we no longer hold infants in laps.

    Eric: The foam was not frozen.

  44. I thought Baby-on-Board signs were last used in the 80s. Do you mean there’s some part of America where they are still used?

  45. must. resist. urge. to. correct. bad. physics.

  46. I thought the same thing as mvb: these signs are a clear invitation for some pedophile to follow you home. Why take that risk?

    I’m joking of course. However, I do agree keeping the junk to a minimum in your car is the best idea, particularly anything valuable (like CDs). I know several people whose cars were broken into because they left CDs and other valuable items in plain sight in their car.

    And yes, King Krak, there are still many people that have these signs. I saw two of them on my lunch hour yesterday. Like the family stickers, they’re not my style, but I guess some people like them.

  47. Things can become projectiles in a serious accident, but the items I’ve heard serious warnings about are a lot larger: (1) a gallon jug of milk (I don’t know who’d actually stick one of those in the rear window of their car, but it’s a dumb idea) and (2) the family dog.

  48. Sounds like a potential episode of Mythbusters to me!

    Though they already did one once on the potential lethality of Kleenex boxes left in the back windows of cars. I think it was busted but I honestly don’t remember. I believe they had to put a bowling ball in the back window to achieve the results supposedly caused by Kleenex boxes flying around during a crash.

    And I have to agree with Lenore on this point: why are people in authority (like health care professionals) constantly causing unnecessary worry for parents about the most remotely improbable events?! My advice to new parents: don’t worry so much. Be happy! Enjoy your baby. He / she won’t be a baby for long and you don’t want to end up having wasted his/her babyhood on pointless worries and anxieties.

  49. “And I have to agree with Lenore on this point: why are people in authority (like health care professionals) constantly causing unnecessary worry for parents about the most remotely improbable events?”

    This is the Emergency Room Effect: people who work around injured people SEE all the injuries, AND see the suffering caused by them. It’s easy to understand why it affects them — I’m fairly sure that even if I rationally considered a certain kind of grievous injury to a child as unlikely, had I seen the effects of one of the rare occurrences, I would never be casual about that particular danger again. The problem isn’t so much health professionals who have “seen it all” and are understandably skittish about all kinds of things; it’s about the media and society elevating their gut reactions to expert advice, and the rest of us buying it as such.

  50. – eyeroll – Just because the nurse doesn’t like the signs, for whatever reason, doesn’t mean she needs to make it a national emergency! sheesh.

  51. When these became common in the 80’s, I didn’t like them, because of the notion it floated that a child’s life was more important than an adult’s. I’m a parent, and I don’t think that. That was the trouble I always had with these signs; by implying that a baby’s life was more important than an adult’s, you were further implying that an adult’s life is less important than a baby’s, which I totally do NOT believe.

    I thought the same thing where it regarded a married couple going from a small car to a huge car when they had children; they typically didn’t site the need for space (strollers, diaper bags etc) as the reason, but rather safety. I always thought: I sure wouldn’t want to marry a woman who thought it just fine if I died in a car accident, but that the child was somehow a different story. I’m not just a sperm donor here!

    As for the main issue here: good grief. Just how sterile of an environment do these people think we need to have? Heck, maybe we should knock all the windows out, so that if there’s an accident, there won’t be any flying glass. Maybe we should be required to dress them in fire-retardant clothing.

    Good grief where does it end?

  52. I think The Simpsons covered this one nicely:

    Marge: Look, Homer! I got a “baby on board” sign. Now people will stop intentionally ramming our car!

  53. I’m fully in support of free-range kids, but that doesn’t mean laughing at instead of taking into consideration true risk. Look it up on the CDC mortality charts – motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children over the age of 1. It’s also one of the leading causes of injury to children. Yes, projectiles in a vehicle contribute to this. There is a difference between being overprotective and being sensible. Laughing about projectiles in the vehicle, the MOST LIKELY PLACE for your child to be injured or killed, seems insensible to me. Somehow I managed to have four very independent children AND a clean vehicle.

  54. @ Jennifer – I haven’t seen anyone laughing at a TRUE RISK. I’ve read several people laughing at an imaginary risk. Nobody has denied that some projectiles can seriously harm someone – baby or adult – in a vehicle. A 2 ounce Baby on Board sign is simply not one of them

  55. @Donna – I was referring to the writer of the original letter, who said: “My husband and I laughed and now the other pregnant couples probably think we are child decapitators with a car full of projectiles (water bottles, sunshades and baby mirrors were also on the naughty list).”
    A simple way to understand the forces at work in a motor vehicle crash is to use “the weight of an object x speed of the vehicle” to get roughly the amount of force that object can exert in a crash. A two-pound water bottle (16 oz = 2 lbs) at 45 miles per hour is 90 lbs. Can 90 lbs seriously injure or kill a child? Should we laugh about it?
    I agree that the Baby on Board sign is probably a low risk (and a sort of dorky one too, in my opinion, but that’s beside the point). But this same mom poo-pooing the Baby on Board sign went on to dismiss REAL risks and laughed about them. I’m surprised that Lenore used her letter as an example.

  56. Jennifer, I think that people lose credibility all together when they treat idiotic concerns (a little flappy plastic sign) the same as realistic concerns (a heavy, loose object). To be credible, an argument / warning has to reflect some balance between “realistic likelihood” and “extremely remote theoretical possibility.”

    The funny thing is, I always think about whether something is a potential “projectile” before I put it behind the seat in my car. I thought this was just common sense. Fluffy bear? Ok. Hardcover books? Nah, let’s put them on the floor instead.

  57. Larry — maybe by “safety” they meant the larger car was safer for a child *than the child would be* crammed into the backseat of a little hatchback. The proximity of the front seats to the rear seat of a vehicle is a genuinely calculable safety factor for kids in carseats. But of course I wasn’t there and wasn’t one of the people who said that, so I don’t really know.

  58. But BTW, I agree with you about the initial reaction to the signs. They always made me literally angry until I got so used to them I couldn’t work up the emotion anymore. They really sent a message of devaluing adult life relative to children.

    As far as projectiles in general, like I said, it’s probably better to keep loose, unneeded junk out of the car. But in reality, it’s only stuff that’s up higher that’s really a problem, or stuff that can fly in an explosive fashion (e.g. breaking glass bottles) — there’s not much that can happen to a car that can cause a relatively heavy object (e.g. full water bottle) to fly UP and hurt someone. It’s certainly not a “likely” occurrence, whatever the word “likely” means.

  59. @SLK – that’s a very good point; I hadn’t looked at it like that. But you’re right – it’s hard to trust or believe a person who says that projectiles in the car are a danger if they lump the plastic sign suctioned onto the window in with true projectile dangers. Thanks for the insight!

  60. Jennifer, I think you misinterpreted the letter’s author’s comment about “laughing”. I would have laughed too if someone said to me what that nurse said…literally, and out loud. The comment about the other objects in the car was probably a sarcastic remark, that if the couple was laughing about the BOB sign warning, what more would the other paranoid couples think of them if they knew they had all those other items in their car.

    I don’t think they were serious about laughing about potentially (and I mean far more potential than the BOB sign) dangerous loose objects in a car that can hit a child in a collision, just the ridiculous comment that a BOB sign is capable of decapitation.

  61. I thought the baby on board signs were supposed to let people know to look for someone tiny in case you were incapacitated in an accident.

    As for the danger, it seems very remote. I’ve heard warnings about having cell phones loose and the like, but also know of states that require a garbage can in the passenger area. It seems if this was something actually happening, we’d have seen a ton of lawsuits by now.

  62. I don’t mind the baby on board signs. I have never taken them as a way tell other drivers to be more careful, but for emergency workers if you ever are in a horrible wreck. cars roll, people get ejected, and a diaper bag stuffed under a seat might not be seen, but when they see the sign they might take a closer look. It’s like putting the stickers on a window or door at home to let emergency workers know how may people and pets are inside.

  63. No emergency responder in his or her right mind would base a search for people on a sign hanging in the window of the car. The only purpose for the Baby on Board signs is to brag, I guess is the best word, that you have now done what humans have been doing since the dawn of humankind – reproduce.

  64. And if there is such a terrible wreck that carseats are getting ejected from the car, I’m thinking that the BOB sign has probably fallen off the window. Actually, I’m thinking that there are probably no more windows.

  65. Donna, thank you for your comment about emergency workers; I was just going to point that out. To believe that (and I realize it’s marketing) you’d have to believe that once you’re a parent you never ever ever go anywhere without your kids.

    Emergency responders are required to do a thorough search of the area to make sure no other victims were thrown from or under the vehicle after a crash, regardless of signs in the window (or the absence thereof). Same for a primary and secondary search of a burning building, regardless of signs, or lack thereof, indicating where kids might be sleeping.

  66. “To believe that (and I realize it’s marketing) you’d have to believe that once you’re a parent you never ever ever go anywhere without your kids. ”

    Or that no one but your kids ever rides in your car. “Oh, look, there’s the baby, there are the parents, we can stop looking for potential victims now!”

  67. Not sure why people do “baby on board” signs; I always thought they were trying to be cute or warn other drivers not to be a-holes. They also pre-date a lot of the car seat laws we have today. Nowadays, wouldn’t a great big car seat be an indication to safety crews that there mighta been a baby aboard? And like someone else said, if the accident was so severe that the car seats went flying out of sight, what’s the likelihood that the “BOB” sign is still in place?

  68. OMG! hold up! Like 30 people posted after mvb and didn’t even comment on the hilarity of their post! At 10:48 they said “forget the thudguard… we just use bubble wrap. it’s much more fun, too, because it goes “pop pop pop” whenever we pick him up” Thank you, mvb, I literally lol-ed. haha

  69. I would have dared her to back that up.

    I would also guess that in any accident bad enough to turn that into a flying sign of death, there may be other dangers, like the other car smashing into you, or the utility pole that crushed your roof, or the twister that lifted your car into the sky.

    A mild tap, a fender bender, will not cause a small lightweight plastic sign to turn into a throwing star. In an accident that bad, there are bigger threats to worry about.

  70. Ok, to be honest, I have not read this article….however, I did read this one:
    http://theweek.com/article/index/96342/the-last-word-advice-from-americas-worst-mom
    And I for one have to say, you are one of the smartest parents I have heard of lately.
    I consistently let me kid walk to/from school and other activities. True I don’t live in a big city, he still has to cross a semi busy street. Most parents are aghast….their kids will become the maladjusted adults of the future. We have already seen the beginnings of this.

  71. I always thought it would be much more sensible to have ‘distracted mother/father driving – keep well away in case of erratic manouevers’

    The only place that I’ve seen one of those Baby on Board signs, that seemed sensible – was printed on the front of a pregnant woman’s t-shirt

  72. Some points:

    1. Anything in your car can become a projectile. Projectiles = bad. I store most things in my boot because of this.

    2. There are different levels of projectiles. Harder things hurt you more when they hit! Mobile phones (common one) hitting your head is going to cause more damage than your kid’s teddy bear.

    3. Baby on board stickers do save lives. Not often, but, they can help. It is something emergency services may look for in a very bad accident. Some of the cars will be so shredded a capsule may not be noticeable.

    4. Now, physics lesson. The force required to cause a suction cap to release from a window is GREATER than the force required to break the window. Therefore, it is logical the window will break, and you will have glass flying around anyway.

    5. The force required for a flimsy piece of plastic to cut through your babies throat? I tell you what, if you are at that force – your baby is not going to survive anyway. Incidentally, neither are you. Our bodies don’t deal well with such high force accidents.

    6. Well, maybe the babies neck could still be damaged/ cut in some way? True. But, babies over here anyway tend to be in capsules (ie, more protected) and further to that tend to sort of “hunch” so their neck is not particularly exposed anyway.

    7. Our final conclusion in a hypothetical circumstance where the sign has become a projectile without such great force as to kill the baby anyway due to internal injuries and what not – baby is more likely to sustain an eye injury over decapitation.

  73. Oh, however, if anyone can provide evidence that this has ever occurred we would be very interested in reading it ~ paramedics-on-break.

  74. I have one of these in my car, but only because the sun shade I bought for my daughter’s window had it printed on it and I didn’t notice until I tore apart the packaging. I’m annoyed every time I pull the screen down.

    And I agree with Donna, the point of the signs is to brag.

  75. Drawing from a somewhat famous Discover Channel show…

    A sharpened blade running off of a lawnmower engine could not fully decapitate a human skull. An unsharpened playing card moving at high speed does little more than nick a human’s skin. Here, we’re talking about a device that is designed to stick in one place for a very long time (ever try pulling a suction cup off of a window without using the little tab thing? Not an easy task), unsharpened edges, and very low mass. In an accident, it might not even budge from the window unless the window itself caved in. In that situation, let’s be honest, are you going to even care about that little thing when you have broken glass everywhere? If it actually did, the force pulling it off of the window would dissipate any lethal force from the actual movement.

    For confirmation… maybe I should send this one to Mythbusters…

  76. I’m as free-range as they come, and I’m also a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. Unfortunately, this is true. I’ve actually seen a child, due to being properly strapped into their car seat, come out of an accident completely fine – except for the severe laceration from a simple coat hanger. Even the slightest things become dangerous projectiles in a crash because the forces magnify their weight and make them infinitely more dangerous. This is paranoia: this is basic safety. No, decapitation isn’t something to worry about, but things flying around in a crash WILL still injure your child.

  77. I am picturing my kids in their front-facing car seats, where a flimsy thing would have to go through their car seat to get to their neck. Now when they are big enough to graduate to “boosters,” unless I buy a high-backed one (and probably obscure my view), their necks will be exposed and in more danger (also from whiplash) than if they were just buckled into the back seats with lap belts. (Yeah, here I go with my favorite rant.) So is a child in a booster more unsafe than a child belted into the back seat with neck well below the top of the seat?

    Recalling that most “babies” are rear-facing, I can see the risk of their getting hurt by small projectiles. Decapitated is a stretch, but cut, sure.

  78. Personally, I rely on those “Baby on Board” notices to warn me of “Sleep-Deprived and Distracted Parent Behind the Wheel.” I know to keep a safe distance from cars displaying the sign.

  79. The Partridge Family had it right. Painted on the bus was a sign saying “caution: nervous mother driving.”

  80. @Elfir: I haven’t seen any ‘New Parent Driving’ signs, but I saw one in a passing car the other day with the ‘slippery road’ sign image and the words ‘Grandparent Driving’.

  81. When I was a kid (maybe 3 or 4), I was riding in the car with my mom. I was drinking out of a cup with a straw. We got into a small car accident and the straw jammed up into the top of my mouth. It scraped my mouth, but left no lasting damage. But, clearly since I can remember the incident, it was highly traumatic. So, we should ban straws in cars.

    (Kidding!! For those of you who may not have caught that on your sarcasm radar. 🙂 The story is true, but it would be ridiculous to ban straws, of course.)

  82. That is ridiculous, the real reason you should have one of those hanging in your car is cause it makes you look like a real &%(*#, besides I thought the initial reason people even had those in the first place was to remind other drivers to be careful around your car lest they hurt your child., which is kinda stupid as well.

  83. Sarah, the problem is the “basic safety” message is not promoted, but undermined, when patently false claims are made about danger.

    “Be careful of potential flying objects in the car — even a little sign could hurt someone in an accident”: says “this person is giving good advice.

    “A Baby On Board sign could decapitate your baby” says “this person has no clue what she is talking about — why should I listen to her?

  84. I agree pentamom. And it goes back to your advice in the begininng of this thread regarding keeping junk to a minimum in your car period, signs or not.

    @ Heather, I saw mvb’s post on bubble wrap, and I thought it was hilarious. I just couldn’t think of anything just as funny to add to it.

  85. I agree with Pentamom. And keeping loose items in your car to a minimum is a good idea. However, nothing is ever going to keep us 100% safe. For example, I got hit by a driver who ran a red light a few years ago and a piece of his car came loose, flew through my open window and hit me in the head. So do we ban driving now? Or can we only drive them in straight lines? Once you start down that line of logic, where do you end?

  86. Ok, I think this is still really goofy – but yes, it does happen.

    My step-cousin was killed when he didn’t see a train at an unlit RR crossing in the dark on a rural road. He was not going very fast so the impact itself wasn’t fatal – the other people in the car weren’t even injured – but he was killed when an object (not sure what it was) in the back seat flew forward and hit him in the back of the head.

    He wasn’t decapitated, however, and it was a freak accident kind of thing. It was also something that was totally unsecured – not something affixed to the glass or in a holder like all the items the OP listed.

  87. Re: The decapitation issue from the Baby on Bord sign. My guess this is a myth. An Urban legend. I did a google search and the ONLY mention is from this Free Range posting. The TV show Mythbusters did an episode a few years back on the Myth of playing cards being able to be used as a weapon. They developed a special machine that threw the card out edge first at over 150 mph and one of the guys stood in front of it. I thik he got a small cut one time. Totally ridiculous that someone who is supposed to be an expert would propagate such an outright falsehood. It calls into question ANYTHING that was taught in the prenatal class.
    Below from Mythbusters:
    Mythbusted

    Playing cards as weapons (Killer Deck)
    Myth: an ordinary playing card can kill you with a powerful throw.

    Adam is really good at throwing cards (been doing it since he was 10), so this was a personal mission for him.

    Ricky Jay: card throwing expert, author of Cards as Weapons, a book describing the use of the playing card as a weapon. He can throw cards up to 90mph (Adam can only throw 25mph).

    Adam wants to build a machine that can throw a card. He and Jamie face off in their competing designs, and as always, Jamie’s simple design (modelled on a baseball pitching machine) wins out. Adam tried to replicate arm mechanics with a spring loaded mechanism and fake fingertips, that he admits was “over elegant.” In Jamie’s words, “Adam actually had a pretty clever idea. It doesn’t work, but it was pretty clever.”

    Jamie’s design was pretty awesome. It flung cards through two spinning wheels at 70mph.

    The second throwing machine (with metal wheel) flung cards at 150mph.

    They tested on ballistics gel to measure how it might actually penetrate human flesh.

    Ballistics gel experiment: * 1/4″ with Adam throwing. * 1/2″ with 150mph card throwing machine * 7″ with pellet gun * 20″ with heavy crossbow bolt

    After it was pretty clear that even the super gun wouldn’t do much damage, Jamie offered to be the target for once. It drew a little bit of blood, but not much more.

  88. Several people have mentioned flying glass as being more likely or more dangerous than flying BOB signs. I was in a car accident, the window shattered and covered me with “flying” glass. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and had about three teeny tiny little nicks, not even an 1/8th of an inch long. Automobile glass is made to “crumble” into not very sharp little bits when smashed.

    As for the mirrors, I recently purchased one and I love it, because my child is very quiet most of the time and I’m a very new mom (after a long time trying). I did purchase one that has a tether strap that anchors to the same anchor used for front facing car seats, and I pulled on that sucker as hard as I could, putting all my weight into it, after installation. I see this as a compromise between my peace of mind and the real level of risk to my child.

    Last note, in the 60’s, my 6 year old brother actually fell out of our moving car while we were turning a corner on a residential street. He was and is fine, not a scratch on him. Not that I’m recommending this, but, as a bit of a reality check.

  89. Leah, this is true. Glass is made to crumble. We get surprisingly few injuries from the glass (if glass is smashed we have bigger worries quite frankly).
    However, glass is going to cause more damage than a flimsy piece of plastic, and this was the point I was attempting to make.

  90. Mine, too, baby-paramedic, and the damage from glass is very small, so how small the chance from a BOB sign? Frankly, I’d be more worried about the dork factor rubbing off on the child.

  91. That’s pretty amazing. I suppose I will pay $10,000 for proof that a child was actually decapitated by one of those flimsy paper baby on board signs. I’d pay $5000 proof of cardstock decapitation, and $3000 for proof of decapitation by 4mil corrugated plastic baby on board sign (these are the thick ones as are used in political yard signs). Event must have happened before August 2010, I don’t want anyone staging this to claim the money. Has to have happened in the past.

    I don’t actually want proof, it’s just by offering a reward I think I can prove that the person saying this is a risk is insane.

  92. Personally, I do think those signs are dangerous. Not because of the decapitation risk – seriously? – but because they impede the driver’s view and can be a distraction. It’s difficult enough driving with children in the car, I don’t want to add any extra distractions that could further reduce my driving effectiveness. The roads are dangerous enough as it is.

  93. […] % chance &#959f danger &#1110&#1109 n&#959t &#1072n acceptable risk t&#959 take. See th&#1077 post somewhere n&#959t more th&#1072n &#1072b&#959&#965t a nurse wh&#959 warned parents th&#1072t a […]

  94. Actually, anything loose in the car does become a projectile in any high-speed accident, and can bump you rather hard. We keep loose objects below the chest level for that reason. I do tell my kid not to place books at the convenient “shelf” under the back windshield, for example, precisely because it will fly at your head or neck level. I don’t know about “decapitating” though. That would probably take the speed of about 1000 miles per hour for enough momentum with a blunt object.

  95. @Paul Bolle, I completely agree, I can’t see the point of the signs either. If slowing down drivers was that simple everyone would have one. But the truth is the people that would be likely to speed would take no notice of such a sign.

  96. Rather interesting blog you’ve got here. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read more soon.

    Bella Simpson

  97. This is certainly Great! Thanks.

  98. […] reinforces the idea that a .00000003 % chance of danger is not an acceptable risk to take.  See the post somewhere below about a nurse who warned parents that a “Baby on Board” sign could […]

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