Earlier this week I was blocked by a primary school on Twitter for retweeting their photo of kids dressed from head to toe in hi-viz fancy dress with the caption: *holds head in hands and weeps*.
I'm not going to identify the school because they did get a bit of pop from the Twitteratti, but there is a serious point behind my tweet and that is the insidious creep of victim blaming that the hi-viz pushers stock-in-trade.
The kids were evidently winners in the school's "be seen be bright" competition which seems to be the main theme of a plank of the Government's "road safety" campaign for children. The website for the campaign is pretty disgusting as it features a game which requires the player to hi-viz-up cartoon kids to stop them being splattered crossing a busy road to a funfair;
"Dress brightly in cool gear if it's hospital you fear!"
As usual of late, the Government's "Think!" campaign simply doesn't. Be Bright Be Seen sits squarely in the victim blaming swamp and it essentially tells children (and parents) that unless kids are dressed as roadworkers, it is their fault if drivers can't see them and they get hit.
The operational side of my industry has worked hard for many years to reduce death and injury befalling our staff on site, especially on road schemes. What we know is we need to change systems so that people are not put in the way of heavy machinery and despite the wearing of hi-viz being essentially mandatory for us when we are out working, this is not the approach we should take with our streets.
If the government wants to influence behaviour (and I'm dubious how much of this actually works, although marketing is a helpful information tool) it needs to change it's message back to the hard hitting campains aimed at the people in control of the heavy machinery. More importantly, it needs to invest in local roads where children are the victims.
My message to schools is that it is right for you, as community leaders, to take an interest in the safety of our children. But, please don't buy into this hi-viz crap, put your influence to work in demanding changes to our streets and systems to protect our children as this is a long term investment and not an annual garish fix.