“Many people are unaware that the number of fatalities amongst young people caused by road accidents is higher than deaths from other external causes, including those that receive much more publicity from the media. In 2008, 73 children aged 0 – 11 years were killed on Britain’s roads. Another 1,436 were seriously injured. There is a need for all those involved with children to teach clear road safety messages effectively and consistently, working together to help children understand and manage risk.”
Sounds like the sort of crap you’d expect from the AA or RAC or some other motorist lobby, doesn’t it? Its actually taken from The Department for Transport’s guidance to teachers. I’m not trying to argue that children should not be taught how to be safe when crossing the road, merely that it is completely missing the point. The risk is that by extension you absolve the person actually causing the harm, the motorist of their responsibility by placing the idea that it is up to the victim to prevent becoming a victim.
“Be seen at all times, wear bright clothing when during the day & encourage the use of florescent clothing in poor lighting conditions – armbands or reflective strips on school bags.”
This was taken from the Glasgow Council website.
This is the Walking Bus (image taken from site) in the London Borough of Havering. In order to maintain the prioritising of traffic speed above all else, and to free road users from nuisances like having to take care when driving the council (and many others) have started pushing the idea that this is what kids need in order to safely walk to school. Surely it would be healthier to look at the cause of their desire to do this rather than merely treat the symptoms?
The problem with this kind of thing is that eventually the news reports change. Where once you would have read something like this; “The child was crossing the road outside his primary school when he was hit by a Land Rover Discovery,” to this, “The child, who was dressed in dark clothing, was crossing the road outside his primary school when he was hit by a Land Rover Discovery.” It is a small change but it is placing some of the blame onto the victim (or his parents) for not “being visible,” whilst glossing over the fact that the motorist was negligent by driving such a vehicle outside of a primary school in a manner which left them unable to stop the vehicle in an appropriate amount of time. Soon maybe half of the kids are dressed up like Christmas trees, they are easier to see from the windscreen perspective and so the average traffic speed increases because the motorists are safe in the knowledge that the kids are easier to see, (so less care needs to be taken) and the kids without the Christmas tree outfit are practically asking to be run over, so they are at least partially responsible, right?
This is a dangerous way to think, and it has already happened to cyclists with respect to helmets, and partially with respect to bright/fluorescent clothing. The media will now use the phrase, “who was not wearing a helmet,” quite happily in a report about a cyclist who was clearly the victim of motorist negligence and nothing else. This perpetuates the myth that the cyclist is partially responsible for the incident by choosing not to wear a helmet (even though it wouldn’t have helped in the slightest) and facilitates further dangerous and negligent behaviour by motorists by suggesting that they are less responsible for the safety of those they may kill with their vehicle.
If you are still not persuaded, compare the pushing of bicycle helmets and high visibility clothing for pedestrians and cyclists to solve the problem of road safety to a problem which kills far fewer in the UK but receives far more media coverage and Police resources; knife crime. Lets take the Road Safety approach to knife crime; firstly we need knife awareness training in primary schools so that the kids can learn to avoid those areas where knife crime exists. This could be backed up with a poster campaign or a post-watershed advert series aimed at adults, raining awareness of knife crime and where not to go to avoid being stabbed. The bad areas where knife crime is rife continue to grow, so the campaign starts to push the idea of stab-vests for all. Perhaps a catchy “Don’t forget your stab-vest,” advert campaign showing a typical suburban family. Eventually enough time passes so that when someone without a stab-vest is stabbed to death the phrase, “who was not wearing a stab vest,” would appear in the news stories and the myth that the victim is at least partially responsible for being stabbed for not taking the prescribed precautions begins to gain traction. Luckily this isn’t the case (yet) although to make the analogy more comparable to the helmet debacle I suppose the stab-vest should be substituted for a set of special magical underpants or something else which would provide no protection in the event of being stabbed.
This is taken from Wigan Council’s website today. If we keep attacking our social problems like this then maybe we’ll be seeing this tomorrow: