Call for all schools to introduce reflective uniform

3mscotchliteExtract from Newsletter 10th March 2010

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CLASSMATES of two pupils knocked down and killed in Co Fermanagh will wear new high visibility, reflective school uniforms in September, in a bid to prevent further tragedies.
The move comes after a coroner this week found that dark clothing was a factor in the deaths of Devenish College pupils Nathan Gault, 15, and Debbie Whyte, 14 who were struck by a car as they walked along a country road near Florencecourt in November 2008.

Calls have now been made for the measures to be rolled out in schools across the Province.

The Department of Education say they are working on a policy to “advise schools to consider using light colours and reflective materials”.

Principal of Devenish College, Mervyn Walker said his pupils had embraced the idea for a reflective school blazer, after the devastating tragedy.

“From this very tragic accident, we have taken a positive step forward in road safety for our pupils,” he said.

“The pupils here had a real input into the design of the blazer, and I believe they have really taken this initiative on board.

“The blazer is just one part of this, the pupils have also suggested a reflective school scarf, if the blazer is covered or not being worn,” Mr Walker added.

Fermanagh councillor and school governor Alex Baird said the school blazer was the best “practical step” to prevent similar road deaths.

“This will be a very important step forward in road safety for local pupils, many of whom have to walk in badly-lit areas and on rural country roads,” said Mr Baird.

“I must commend the Western education board for progressing this consultation and showing a determination to do something practical after this terrible tragedy.

“We hope that when these new uniforms are worn from September onwards, motorists will be able to see school children on the roads, and there is no doubt that lives will be saved,” he added.

Assembly member for the area, Tom Elliott, said he hoped the safety measures will be adopted by education boards across the Province.
“Sadly it came too late for these two tragic young people, but we cannot turn the clock back. We need to be proactive.

“The Western board has led the way and others need to follow.

“I know when I was younger, I would never have thought of putting on a high-visibility jacket, it wasn’t cool, but if it can save a life, it is worth it,” said Mr Elliott.

An inquest into the deaths of the two pupils was told the accident happened on a dark night, and that they had been wearing their dark school blazers.

A forensic scientist, who carried out a reconstruction of the incident, said that with a dipped headlight a person wearing a dark school uniform could only be seen 18m away. That distance, he added, would be covered by a car in just one second at 40 mph.

When he repeated the experiment with a high visibility jacket, the distance increased to more than 100m with dipped headlights, and 200m with full beam lights.

David Donaldson from LE Graphics in Enniskillen, who supply reflective school wear across the Province, said it was time a “definitive policy” was in place.

“We have been calling for some time for schools to make reflective clothing policy.

“We have a range of items from hats, scarves, jackets and schoolbags with reflective strips, which could and are already helping to save lives,” he said

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