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February 9, 2005 12:36 AM

Broken: Safety belt strap warning

BrokenTim Hunter writes:

I noticed this "informative" label on the safely belt shoulder strap while riding in a Ford 15-passenger van. None of the 15 passengers could figure out what it was trying to tell us.

[Don't sit on a pillow while reading the phone book? -mh]


Caution concerning child seats... please read manual?

- my best guess.

Posted by: rob at February 9, 2005 12:54 AM

Warning: children might be reading one book hiding inside another.

Posted by: Lionfire at February 9, 2005 01:26 AM

This young infant has recently published his first book, consisting entirely of the letter "i." !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Mel at February 9, 2005 01:38 AM

imho id say that it means caution: before using child seats, consult manual.

Posted by: Dragon at February 9, 2005 01:45 AM

Danger! Ejection Seat! Literacy rules.

Posted by: Thomas at February 9, 2005 01:53 AM

Child seat? What, are you blind to see two seats?

Posted by: dusoft at February 9, 2005 04:03 AM

For child seat, read manual. What, are you blind to see two seats?

Posted by: dusoft at February 9, 2005 04:04 AM

It's not the clearest, but I agree. It's 'saying' Attention/Warning, consult the manual when using child-seats.

Some cars allow you to turn of the front passenger-side airbag for just this sort of thing.

Posted by: PhastPhrog at February 9, 2005 06:50 AM

Thanks Dragon, I figured out in a second too.

Since when can 16 kindergarden kids drive a van?

Posted by: Mario at February 9, 2005 08:30 AM

You do indeed need to be an expert to understand it. It means "read the owner's manual before installing a child restraint."

Posted by: Joe Clark at February 9, 2005 08:35 AM

"Warning! If you sit on top of a big cushion, be sure to read the dictionary first."

Posted by: PlantPerson at February 9, 2005 09:00 AM

OK, so here's the challenge:

Do it better.

What would you do to make this feature more usable?

Posted by: DaveC426913 at February 9, 2005 09:18 AM

DaveC: My suggestion would be a label that read "Warning! Consult the manual before installing child restraints!" in whatever languages are most common in the country the van is being sold in.

Posted by: E.T. at February 9, 2005 09:40 AM

The idea behind icons to convey information is that pictures don't require knowledge of any specific language as the image conveys the information needed. In this case, It's a bit difficult to discern the intent. To that degree, the icons have failed to do their job.

As has been puzzled out by some, the indications point to this being a caution that the owners manual must be consulted before using a child seat. The icon sequence seems to be:

(1) Caution!

(2) Child Seat

(3) Consult Manual

This is really a sentence put together from icons. It's a pictograhic language, but a language that people are not familiar with.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at February 9, 2005 10:00 AM

Hey, now, E.T. That's crazy talk.

Posted by: Chaz Larson at February 9, 2005 10:31 AM

Warning, giant punctuation block may fall on child seat unless you chant the "i" spell from the grimore.

Posted by: Citizen Of Trantor at February 9, 2005 10:33 AM

It is a pictograph sentence, however, the correct translation is :

Wow, isn't it exciting. The pyramids were actually built by short aliens with floating heads that could not see over the dashboards of their spacecraft.

These aliens resemble a small letter i when viewed from the front. Please refer to the alien identification book for verification.

Posted by: Chazz at February 9, 2005 11:30 AM

This is a history of i. It starts with i having been born from a chalice, spends a life with many supporters, then is memorialized so many can read about the life of i.

Posted by: Kumanikko at February 9, 2005 12:03 PM

Words, words, words. Too often, we are forced (by clients and corporations) to use icons when words would do a much better job, or words supported by icons.

Reminds me of another site where someone noted that their clients wanted an icon of a landlord, and to make sure the landlord was wearing a landlord hat (whatever that is!).

As another poster noted, use the languages where the van is sold. If someone can't read their native language, they shouldn't be driving a van, having children, or putting children in safety seats.

Posted by: Michael McWatters at February 9, 2005 12:56 PM

Contrary to what many people think, icons are NOT necessarly language independent! As a software writer, I have come across occasions where a particular icon has a radically different meaning in some particular culture. Just as you need to change the language file for certain languages, you need to change the icons for certain cultures.

Posted by: Gary Edstrom at February 9, 2005 04:18 PM

Why an i?

Posted by: Ilan at February 9, 2005 04:18 PM

"I" stands for information.

Posted by: Dragon at February 9, 2005 04:57 PM

Actually picture languages stem from cavemen times. I think the corporation had a relapse to an earlier time in human kind where pictures was the only form of warnings as to where dinosaurs were, potty's and the best hunting for buffalo. It is my best guess that they are saying do not let your child read the manual or they will hook up their child seat and drive away with your van.

Posted by: Kitten at February 9, 2005 08:37 PM

It warns those who cannot read that they must read the manual.

Posted by: Reed at February 10, 2005 09:01 AM

(No, seriously, it lets them use the same label on all seat belts, and only print manuals in different languages.)

Posted by: Reed at February 10, 2005 09:02 AM

I tend to agree that it's done so that they can use one label for the entire planet, but I also firmly believe that it should be plain "english" (or swedish, or whatever) so that there's no confusion.. and that if you can't understand a plain text message in $home_language, you have no business driving.

Posted by: Jay911 at February 10, 2005 11:32 AM

"Why an 'i'?"

"'I' stands for 'information'"

In other words, in order to understand the pictographs, you have to be able to read English, or another European language in which the word for "information" starts with an I.

Did we really spend 6000 years developing alphabetical languages for it to come to this?

Posted by: E.T. at February 10, 2005 04:34 PM

How about Caution, don't use with Child Seats, and read the manual. What are you, an imbecile. Next on This is Broken...your head.

Posted by: Hugh at February 11, 2005 08:04 AM

Hey, hugh, speaking of reading the manual, maybe you should have read the previous posts before commenting. Most people didn't get a "don't use with child seats" meaning from this label. So if you're right, the label's broken, as most people didn't get the meaning. On the other hand, if you're wrong, the label's still broken, because you managed to misinterpret it. It's just not as simple as you think.

Posted by: Bob at February 11, 2005 08:21 AM means don't put the child facing forward in a child seat, and read the manual for details. Hope you don't have kids--unless you need them to help you how to read.

Posted by: Chris at February 11, 2005 05:05 PM

It's information for people who own cars with built in DVD players. It says warning Small children should read books on long trips!

The "i" stands for idiot which is what you become if you can't read.

Posted by: Nerdwagon at February 11, 2005 05:20 PM

I'm not a user researcher, but I'm sure most of them would tell you that a good metric for something like this would be how long it takes for a person to determine what the cryptic pictogram means and what percentage of people correctly "translate" it. This is the standard I've seen applied to websites. If it takes too long to figure out what something on a webpage does or if it is often misinterpreted, then something is wrong.

Posted by: bkim at February 11, 2005 05:32 PM

You've all got it wrong. It's a poem in pictograms. It says:

Ignoramuses, please take heed!

Don't have children

if you cannot read.

Posted by: zeeto at February 11, 2005 05:34 PM

Caution: This is an overstuffed chair cussion of information.

Posted by: blah at February 12, 2005 01:13 AM

i think it says

CAUTION!: befor sitting on encredibly large cushion read a book on how to deflate a encredibly larde cushion


Posted by: you all suck at February 12, 2005 05:32 AM

everyone has obviously come to the consensus that it indicates something about the child seat (installing it, facing it forward… something) and the need to consult the manual...

however, i do enjoy the fact that, if indeed they did use pictures for people that cant read the native languages of the country in which the car was made... how the hell are they going to read the user manual or signs on the road such as "stop" and "yield", "diesel" and "unleaded"… the obviously couldn’t read the directions on the box of condoms

Posted by: tripp at February 12, 2005 02:11 PM

Erm.... in most countries that are not the US (see CIA world factbook "Countries that are not the US") icons are used for road signs too.

I don't think this is much to do with literacy as with speed of comprehension. *once you have learnt the sign* it's quicker to comprehend a little snowflake than "bridge may surface may be icy in cold weather" or the various other verbose variants I have seen around the US.

Place names must, of course, be worded, but then you don't actually have to know what a place name means or how to pronounce it to find it on a map.

In England there is a very ancient law that all public houses must have a pictorial sign outside. They were used for navigation. In fact, when applying for a license to sell alcohol one states the pub as "and known by the sign of..." rather than its street address.

Posted by: Simon Trew at February 12, 2005 02:43 PM

cmon, kindergardeners

i am a teen and i got it right away:

dont put foward-facing child saftey seats in the front seat without reading the manual first

Posted by: joe plaugher at February 12, 2005 11:54 PM

joe: It's not that YOU can understand it, it's about the general population. If 15 (semi)intelligent people in a van couldn't figure it out...

Posted by: fuzzy at February 13, 2005 04:45 AM

"Your child in de seat next to yours, is trying to get attention, but you are reading a book about yourself."

Posted by: Dave at February 13, 2005 05:08 AM

"Your chair is too obscenely large and comfortable so we need to drop a book on your head."

Posted by: fuzzy at February 13, 2005 05:12 AM

Beware! You may find dangerous child seats and books!!!


Hey, I have an idea! We can replace child seats with books!

Posted by: Renata at February 13, 2005 10:16 AM

I immediatly knew that it meant "caution before using child seats consult manual"

But as long as we are going for funny interpritations here's mine:

Keep dictionaries away from little people sitting on cussions in the car, or large triangles may fall on them.

Posted by: BOB at February 13, 2005 07:20 PM

Question for those who figured out it had something to do with child safety seats:

If you didn't already know that airbags can kill children in child safety seats, would you have realized what the sign was saying? In other words, how much does your comprehension depend on background knowledge that other drivers might not have?

Posted by: jaed at February 13, 2005 10:08 PM

In my 2-seat sports car, there is a sign that says: "WARNING: The back seat is the safest place for children under 12 years old". Doesn't that seem a little strange?

Posted by: Thomas at February 14, 2005 03:47 AM

Hey, I would like to go back to the original comment.

"None of the 15 passengers could figure out what it was trying to tell us."

I know these 15 passengers. They are engineers at Ford. This is actually a surplus label from Boeing. I have seen this in the lavatory on their commode lap belts. It is much more practical in that application, especially during turbulence. The label really means, "Caution! If you run out of TP, use the pages from the book you are reading."

Posted by: Chris at February 14, 2005 12:08 PM

Another thought.

If an icon is supposed to convey a universal message, than it should be universally understood, right? If there is a mis-understanding of an icon and harm is the result, is it the icon owner's or consumer's responsibility? The lawyers can answer that. I would suggest that both text and icons are used until said icon is universally understood, especially when the icon involves safety issues. If the word "STOP" were to be removed from all stop signs, would there be a mis-understanding? Probably not because a red octagon has become the "icon" to stop. Maybe it would be easier to just bring back the Model T. There were no icons in them, except maybe Henry Ford himself. He was a true icon, wasn't he? Although he was probably mis-understood at times too.

Posted by: Chris at February 14, 2005 03:35 PM

Another possible interpretation:

"Oi you!

Please sit down comfortably.

And read more. It's informative."

Posted by: Val at February 17, 2005 11:43 AM



For your convenience, the inside chair

Can be converted into a book"

Notice how the child seat is highlighted in the second pictogram. I conclude it is the main subject of the sentence.

Posted by: Val at February 17, 2005 11:48 AM

What about this:

"A warning sign,

a child seat,

and an instruction manual

are included as standard with this vehicle"

Man, I can't stop now... this is so inspiring! I guess they must have felt the same when they were trying to interpret hieroglyphs, I'm sure they had a great time cracking jokes about them ^_^

Posted by: Val at February 17, 2005 11:54 AM

Chris I think is right about the STOP sign and made my point more succinctly than I did.

The stop sign is more or less universal and in most of Europe is written with the four Latin letters "STOP". In some Arabic-speaking countries I've visited, and one European one not so far from me, it is written in the local alphabet/language. The fact that it is the *only* octagonal sign probably helps.

Off topic again, I know...

Posted by: Simon Trew at February 22, 2005 07:29 PM

Joe, I disagree that it means "Don't put forward facing child seats in the front seat without consulting manual," as every other vehicle I've seen in the world (many UK, some US, some German) tells you NOT to put REAR-facing child seats in the front. My interpretation is that it reads "Consult owner's manual before using child seat in this vehicle."

Posted by: Brian at February 23, 2005 08:19 PM

The Message Says:

Do Not Balance Child On Instruction Manuals While Child Is Under Large "!" Sign!

Posted by: Strife_Master at March 3, 2005 10:08 PM

warning....never use seat and read while driving at the same time!

Posted by: shadradson at March 15, 2005 02:31 AM

Caution- Place small children in proper car seats. Consult Car Manuel for detailed instruction. (I guess they just don't have enough ink to print that all out on there now Do They ?)

Posted by: Duh at March 18, 2005 03:15 AM

I work for Ford and created the sign for this model. It says;

Warning, before use of child seat please consult manual.

Awe the wittle kiddygadeners weady foe theiy pwaydate?

Posted by: James L. Teaker at May 23, 2005 11:28 PM


Posted by: makebusy7 at May 25, 2005 12:57 PM

Duh! Read the manual for use with car seats! How many IQ points among these people?

Posted by: therealpixie at July 11, 2005 01:26 PM

u all . silly kids everyone knows the thing at the top is the WARNING sighn for cars , and in the middle is ALL YOUNG CHILDREN MUST BE IN CARSEAT , and at the bottom is PEASE SEE IFORMATION MANUAL. duhh !!!!!!!!!

Posted by: NICK at September 5, 2005 07:23 PM





Posted by: sy567 at January 27, 2006 09:31 AM

Did you know that the things most parents do to protect their children from sexual abuse, are the same things that pedophiles say help them out?

This site has important information for parents.

Posted by: Stacy at February 11, 2006 10:48 PM

I could tell on the first viewing, it says "Warning! Before installing child seat read the manuel!"

Posted by: Ray-Ray Chan at March 6, 2006 03:37 PM


sy565's comment's translation, for people who can't read Japanese(don't worry, neither can I).

"Expectation (perhaps by mistake it is)


Please be sure to use the child seat.

As for details please read the instruction manual."

Posted by: James at March 25, 2006 08:31 AM

just for the record, the correct spelling of cushion is, well, cushion, not cussion.

Posted by: psychohamster at April 7, 2006 12:28 PM

my guess...

be careful using child seats. read manual for more info.

Posted by: will at April 7, 2006 08:05 PM

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