Vests make sure drivers can see youngsters

Wairarapa Road Safety Council is highlighting road safety in more ways than one, giving 700 rural pupils throughout Wairarapa high-vis vests for safe travel to and from school.

WRSC projects co-ordinator Holly McGeorge said the initiative, which will kick off next term, would ensure children who travel to school by bus or school van are "safe and seen".

"Basically there are just over 700 rural pupils in Wairarapa that travel by bus or school van to school," she said.

"We wanted to make sure they stand out on the roadside when being dropped off and picked up so we have bought vests to go out to each pupil.

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"Our little people need to stay safe so they can also do lots of things in the future."

The vests will be issued as school property which gets returned to the school at the end of the year.

Twelve rural schools throughout Wairarapa including Pirinoa, Tuturimuri, Mauriceville and Fernridge, have jumped on board with the initiative, which was inspired by a similar project in South Taranaki.

Wairarapa Police Traffic Sergeant Shayne Nolan said there was no doubt that giving students high-vis vests for safer journeys was "excellent as far as road safety goes".

"It means all road users will be able to see them more easily," he said.

"The days are a lot shorter at this time of year so quite often it's dark when these kids are boarding or departing the bus.

"This will highlight them for other people using the road."

Mr Nolan said an 11-year-old girl was hit by a car outside Masterton Intermediate School last Friday, which "further highlights the issue".

"Children can be unpredictable, so anything that means they are seen more easily will be an improvement."

WRSC manager Bruce Pauling said the initiative would address feedback from rural people who had "expressed concerns that the kids are hard to see especially in the foggy mornings and low-light conditions".

"As you can see the kids are really highlighted. Anything we can do to draw attention to drivers that these little folk are out and about is all the better."

Mr Pauling said he hopes that when next term begins, the high-vis vests will "basically be part of the kids' uniforms - that's what we really want".