In September of 1984, the Safety 1st Corporation began marketing a suction-cup affixed sign which parents could attach to their car windows: a yellow, diamond-shaped alert reading simply “Baby on Board.” The signs quickly became a fad throughout the United States and just as quickly waned (and was later the subject of mocking by the Simpsons; seen/heard here). It is still somewhat popular in Western Europe, and a similar sign is all the rage in China, but the signs never made their way into the rest of Asia.
Which is okay, at least in Japan. The Japanese have their own sign, seen above, called a Koreisha mark. But it does not signal that there is a baby in the car. Rather, it warns others that the driver is an older driver, and his or her age may affect the operation of the automobile.
Drivers age 70 or older are strongly advised to affix the Koreisha mark to the front and rear of their vehicles if, in the driver’s judgment, their age impairs their ability to drive. At age 75, the mark becomes a requirement, regardless of one’s driving ability. And while the idea behind requiring the elderly to don badges of this like may offend Western sensibilities, in concept at least, the Koreisha mark is not terribly controversial in Japan.
In practice, however, the mark caused some problems. A counterpart, the Shoshinsha mark (below left), has been required for new drivers — those with less than a year of driving experience — since 1972. The Shoshinsha mark’s goals are similar to the Koreisha’s, as both aim to warn other drivers of the potential failings of their fellow motorists. However, the original Koreisha mark (below right), adopted in 1997, resembled a wilting autumnal leaf compared to the Shoshinsha’s spring-like version.
This dichotomy led a good percentage of older drivers to skirt the law and not affix the mark. In February of 2011, Japan created a new Koreisha mark as seen at the top of the page.
Bonus fact: The oldest company in the world, according to the Guinnness World Records book, is a hotel in Japan called Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan. It has been in operation continuously since the year 705.
From the Archives: Prawo Jazdy, Ireland’s Worst Driver: With dozens of tickets but no arrests, perhaps Jazdy needs a Koreishu mark? Not exactly. Also, Type Cast: The cultural importance Japan places on a person’s blood type.
Related: Safety First still makes and sells “Baby on Board” signs. You can get one for about $5.