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Why one mom wants to make day-glo orange the new black

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While parents in the US are focused on keeping their little pumpkins visible and street-safe during Trick-or-Treating, a mom in Britain is trying to get a law passed requiring young children there to wear high-visibility clothing all winter, in and out of school .

“I want to get the message across to children that it is ‘hip and happening’ to wear high visibility jackets," Mel Finnemore, a firefighter and mom of two from Rutland, England, told the local Stamford Mercury newspaper as she launched her ‘Be Safe Be Seen’ campaign.

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Ms. Finnemore also told the Mercury, “I want it to be made law for children to wear bright clothing in winter. It would save many lives.” 

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The interpretation of her statements by some have resulted in differing takes on exactly what Ms. Finnemore hopes to see as a result of her campaign. One response has spun her proposed safety scenario into forcing all kids, no matter their ages, to wear orange jumpsuits similar to prison garb. In reality, Finnemore is aiming for day-glow safety vests, similar to construction worker apparel.  

In either case, it comes down to trying to convince kids and parents that orange is the new black when it comes to winter wardrobes for both home and school.

The concept of the campaign is to make children more visible to motorists and thus easier to avoid. While some parents may view a law requiring bright clothing as overreaching, it’s hard to argue that kids in bright colors are easier to spot.

The campaign began with a very positive approach on Oct. 13 with a march of 300 elementary school students – as well as dozens of mounted police, fire crew, paramedics, joggers, bikers, builders, construction workers, security men, and parents – all wearing fluorescent-jackets, according to the Stamford Mercury.

However, Finnemore also went to her local Rutland member of parliament (MP) Alan Duncan to demand a law requiring such clothing. Mr. Duncan replied with a letter, saying he can “certainly support the concept of high-visibility bags, ” but would “not be in favour of any form of compulsion,” according to the Mercury.

In this instance it’s worth asking, could the proposed “nanny state” approach be a regrettable decision that invites a parental rebellion by removing choice.

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Finnemore’s “Because I said so” approach is to adults is what author Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book “Matilda” is to kids. Particularly when a young Matilda tries to reason with her father rationally, he responds: “Listen, you little wiseacre: I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're little; I'm right, you're wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it.”

As a mom, I’ve found it so much more effective to get a good safety practice across to a child or adult if you can get them to buy into it of their own accord, as Ms. Finnemore was well on her way to doing with her safety parade.

Why create a law that could threaten parents with legal repercussions, when you can present to them a safety tip requiring little more than a bright vest or roll of reflective tape to stick on outerwear and backpacks?

The good news is that at the end of the day, all students at the school Finnemore’s children attend were given high visibility backpacks via a grant from the school district.

While campaigning for our children’s safety, it might be best to connect with parents on a direct level, versus building a law that circumvents their decision making skills.


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