Minister Ross promotes high-vis with hoax image of child crossing road blacked out

— Motorists need to slow down at crossing and children at a zebra crossing shouldn’t be the unexpected, says campaigners.

Transport minister Shane Ross, Westmeath County Council, Cork City Fire Brigade, and news website Cork Beo are among those sharing a hoax image which is claimed to show the different between a child with and without bright coloured clothes.

Most of those sharing are promoting the use of high-vis clothing, but campaigners point out that the effectiveness of high-vis to reduce road collision related injuries is in doubt. Responding to a Freedom of Information request from campaigners, the RSA they had no documents to support the promotion of high-vis.

This comes across as counterintuitive to members of the public but is largely explained by two factors — distracted driving, such as phone use, talking to passengers or messaging with radios; and what road safety researchers call “looked but failed to see” — which results in cyclists and motorcycles experiencing motorists pulling out and then saying “Sorry, mate, I didn’t see you”. Both of these factors cannot be solved by high-vis and often reportedly occur even with strong flashing bicycle lights or motorcycle headlights.

The image being shared mainly on Facebook this week is claimed to show the different just in clothes but a close inspection of the image shows how the image was Photoshopped or otherwise edited to darken even the face and legs of the child:

The source which kicked off the sharing of the image on social media seems to be a Facebook page called Ulster Roadwatch Community from a post on October 17.

That page had the following text which is largely repeated by others: “The same child is in both photos. The only difference is how they’re dressed. As we approach shorter daylight hours, whether you walk, cycle, use public transport or drive be sure to adapt your outfit to improve your ability to be seen.”

The Ulster Roadwatch page even includes a zoomed-in section showing the child’s face and legs blacked out, but it brazenly uses this to claim all that’s different is how the child is dressed. It said: “For anyone struggling to see the child in the second photo, they are there, just dressed in Navy/Black.”

Minister Shane Ross posted on Facebook yesterday: “Very powerful message from Westmeath County Council. It is important that we can be seen on our commute, particularly in these dark winter mornings evenings.”

He added: “If you or someone you know needs a high vis vest you can call in to my constituency office to pick one up. #BeSafeBeSeen.”

At the time of publication, Minister Ross’s Department has not responded to why he shared a deceptive image.

Not everyone is falling for the hoax. Wexford Bicycle User Group said: “This image is doing the rounds of the internet at the moment. There’s a lot of photoshopping going on there for starters.”

“A child waiting to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing should not be expected to dress like a builder or a road worker.”

They added: “Where is the reference to the expectation on a driver to drive with the due care an attention required as part of one’s drivers licence? Slow down and expect what shouldn’t be the ‘unexpected’ especially at pedestrian crossings.”

Gerry Dornan, a spokesman for Cyclist.ie, said: “It is dishonest of the Minister Shane Ross to equate safety with hi viz and we note that the child in the photograph was waiting at a zebra crossing. If the Minister is genuinely interested in the safety of such children, he should introduce legislation to allow CCTV cameras at such crossings.”

He added: “At a time of increasing cyclist fatalities, many cyclists are exposed to close passing on a daily basis even during daylight hours. The Minister has promised action but nothing has been delivered to date and cyclists have had to go out to protect cycle lanes as he has done little or nothing to stop cars parking in cycle lanes.”

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

2 Comments

  1. Maybe they should make the zebra crossing high vis, it looks very faded. And add some lights.

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