Baby on Board


I'm sure everyone is familiar with signs on the rear of cars that read "baby on board". Most people I know who are aware of the existence of these signs find them quite annoying. Usually the reason people find them irritating is that the knowledge that there is a baby nearby should not and does not improve people's safety while driving. I've heard it said "hey, I want to live too." Perhaps every vehicle should be equipped with a sign reading "human on board." I used to find these signs pretentious and annoying for this very same reason. However, I no longer do. I now find them pretentious and annoying for a very different reason.

Primarily, my change of reasoning has been brought about by a change of understanding. Apparently, the signs' purpose is not to inform drivers around them that there is a baby aboard and therefore drive more carefully, as I and so many I know assumed (and which would be a very pretentious and annoying reason to display such signs), but rather to inform EMTs that there is a baby aboard that needs saving in the event of a collision. Upon first hearing this, the actual reason the signs are displayed, (although I have no doubt that some bearers of the sign display them because of the aforementioned reason, as they themselves are not aware of the true esoteric purpose for them) one might think that this is far more reasonable and forgive the fliers of these offending flags. To do so would be a far greater mistake than having judged them in the first place; for despite having a new, more accurate, and seemingly more reasonable excuse, upon further reflection, one finds that this new explanation if far stupider than the first.

The former explanation was predicated on a single assumption: drivers value the lives of strangers' babies more than their own. This is not necessarily false but the pretense is more evident when viewed from the perspective of those who bear the signs: "my baby's life is more valuable than those of the drivers' around me." It is for this reason that I and many others found the signs annoying. Indeed if this is the reason for someone displaying such a sign, it is a very valid reason to find the sign and the signee rather annoying. However, we know this is not the reason many of the signs are displayed. Admittedly, the explanation we now know is true is less presumptive about other drivers' values, it does however, rely on far more assumptions.

Whereas the former explanation relied on a single assumption to be useful, the latter relies on many:
    1. There is a baby on board.
    2. The vehicle experiences a collision.
    3. The collision is egregious enough to require emergency response.
    4. The operator of the vehicle is incapacitated or otherwise incapable of communicating.
    5. The baby is unconscious or otherwise incapable or unwilling of making its presence known.
    6. The EMTs are unaware of the baby.
    7. The EMTs are aware of the sign.
If and only if every one of these requirements is fulfilled with the sign fulfill its purpose.

Let us examine each requirement in detail:

1. There is a baby on board
It might sound like a given that there is a baby on board the vehicle but it is not so. Many times I have passed by a vehicle with this sign shown, and there has been no baby present. It's obvious that a parent or guardian may operate their vehicle without their baby present, but if this is the case, they should remove the sign until the baby is back aboard. It may seem like an unnecessary hassle to take down and put up the sign at every baby embarking and disembarking, but it is not a victimless crime (more on that later).

2. The vehicle experiences a collision
It's worth noting that although this is a necessary step for the sign to fulfill it's latter purpose, it is not required for the former. Obviously if one's intention is to attempt to prevent an accident in the first place, it would be undesirable to reach this step (although it's usually undesirable to reach this step regardless of intention). Also worth noting is that if the sign is hung for its former reason, neither is the first step required, although some might consider this deceitful (another reason to detest the sign regardless of purpose).

3. The collision is egregious enough to require emergency response
Without a collision that was severe, the baby would not be in danger, rendering the sign worthless.

4. The operator of the vehicle is incapacitated or otherwise incapable of communicating
While the operator of the vehicle makes the assumption that drivers value the lives of strangers' babies more than their own, it is undoubtedly the case that the operator values their baby's life more than their own. I therefore have no doubt that said operator would take every available action to inform the EMTs that there was a baby on board, with the only thing capable of stopping them being their entire inability to communicate at all.

5. The baby is unconsious or otherwise incapable or unwilling of making its presence known
If the operator of the vehicle is unable of alerting the EMTs of the baby, it is also required that the baby be incapable of making its own presence known. If the baby cried out (something I imagine every conscious baby would do following an accident) the EMTs would know it was the and rescue it.

6. The EMTs are unaware of the baby
If neither the parent or guardian or baby are able to alert the EMTs to the presence of the baby, one would assume the EMTs would be observant enough to notice a baby seat accompanied by baby in the vehicle. Only if they were somehow completely oblivious to the baby would the sign be of use.

7. The EMTs are aware of the sign
All of the requirements thus listed are unlikely. Perhaps the unlikeliest of all is that the EMTs be aware of the sign while being simultaneously unaware of the baby. I find it hard to believe that such a situation was possible.

If every one of these seven requirements are fulfilled, then the EMTs will save the baby because of the sign where otherwise they would have failed to save the baby. I don't know the likelihood of these requirements being fulfilled but I imagine them to be very low. If anyone has any even anecdotal evidence of these signs serving any purpose, I would love to hear them here: anthony.b.gamboa@gmail.com. Regardless, the signs remain ridiculous, pretentious, and ultimately useless.


November First, Two Thousand Nineteen