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‘Baby On Board 3/8’ Entrepreneur Doesn’t Find Parodies Funny

September 27, 1986

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) _ Michael Lerner’s company makes those yellow ″Baby On Board 3/8″ signs and he’s not amused by those other signs proclaiming ″Baby Driving,″ ″Nobody On Board″ in car windows across America.

When he began marketing the now-ubiquitous ″Baby On Board 3/8″ signs two years ago, Lerner says, he wanted to promote safe driving, not spawn a new medium of highway communication.

The 32-year-old entrepreneur has learned to take the competition - ″Mother In Law In Trunk,″ ″Workaholic On Board,″ ″No Radio On Board″ - in stride.

″I don’t say to myself, ’My God, look at what I did,‴ Lerner said recently in his suburban Boston office.

His company, Safety 1st, is trying to get a trademark for its ″Baby On Board 3/8″ and ″Child On Board 3/8″ signs, the yellow plastic diamonds that attach by suction cups to the rear windows of cars.

His company has sold 2 million of the $1.99 signs.

″But we won’t be able to stop the parodies,″ he said. ″The parodies, I think, are going to stop by themselves. We hear from a lot of companies that sales are decreasing.″

Safety 1st began after one of Lerner’s friends brought back a type of ″Baby On Board 3/8″ sign from Europe.

″I became sensitive to child safety,″ said Lerner, who is single. ″My nephew was a year and a half old at the time. He had been in my car.

″I researched the concept,″ he said. ″I asked parents. I asked my sister. I asked friends who had kids. I think most people subconsciously stay back when they see one of the signs.″

Lerner and a few friends pooled their funds and came up with $65,000 to start the company.

A breakthrough for the fledgling firm came when a buyer for a large East Coast discount chain who was ″was very much into child safety″ ordered the signs, Lerner said. But ″Baby On Board″ really did not catch on until last fall, about a year after the first signs were shipped.

Today, Saftey 1st has about 90 percent of the market for serious signs. His company does not make parodies and has no plans to do so, Lerner said.

Saftey 1st suffered a setback when some officials questioned whether the signs didn’t in fact increase the chances of an accident by obstructing a driver’s view. Maryland has since forbidden its drivers from attaching the signs to their rear windows.

But Lerner blames the parodies for the concern. ″Some people have two or three of them on the rear window,″ he says.

To ensure Safety 1st’s future, Lerner is branching out into other child- safety products.

Among his new offerings are inflatable plastic covers for bathtub faucets to protect bathing children from head injuries, and a harness and leash to prevent toddlers from straying while walking with their parents.

″People told me you couldn’t be a one-product company and survive,″ he said. ″We really want to be seen as a child safety manufacturer, not a sign company.″

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