Saturday, 22 October 2016

This Week I Upset A Primary School

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.


  1. And of course, in construction hi-viz is regarded as the very last line of defence (control), after you've done everything else you can to eliminate, reduce and isolate the hazards. But when it comes to 'civilians' it suddenly becomes the very first and most important measure. As an industry we have really failed the public there.

    Andy R

  2. Hi viz is a handy way of spotting your kids in crowds such as at stations, museums etc. and is one reason why teachers like it especially for younger kids.

    1. Which is outwith the context of the matter under discussion.

    2. So is a school uniform!

  3. Spot on. I have blogged on this process, most recently here:

    Dr R Davis, Road Danger Reduction Forum

  4. DfT minister, can we invite you to walk along the very road that you just suggested to pedestrians that they should walk across during normal peak hour traffic? You even get to wear a high viz jacket and basically a bubble suit if you want, see how safe you feel while the cars are speeding past at 45 mph, as are lorries.

    Not even my country is that idiotic. It feels like you Brits have lost your mind since June 23 and let it pour down the drain into the Atlantic ocean.

  5. Thanks all for the comments. On the school trip issue, it's probably helpful when taking kids on a train because even uniforms blend into the background.

    I will be returning to this subject in the near future on what I think schools *should* be doing as they could be powerful community voices.