Reflective Vests Keep Children Safe on the Road
By Chuck Gill and Elise Brown, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK – A farm-safety extension educator in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has found a way to keep Amish and Mennonite children safe as they travel on the road.
Kay Moyer, who is based at the Penn State Extension office in Lancaster County, gives presentations on farm and home safety to students in Amish and Mennonite schools in several southern Pennsylvania counties.
After parents and teachers asked her to provide their students with more information about road safety, she began to notice that some children were not staying in single file and following safety rules as they walked along the road.
Then Moyer learned that the roads to several schools did not include a berm on which children could walk. This meant there was not enough room to walk on the correct side of the road, and students had to walk on the right side of the road where they were not facing traffic.
Moyer realized the situation was dangerous, and motorists may need extra help to see the children.
“I wanted the children to be more visible because the children I work with, for the most part, wear dark colors: blacks and blues,” she said. “Most students are walking, biking or riding scooters in all kinds of weather and early in the mornings. We wanted to make children more visible to decrease the potential for injuries or fatalities from being struck by a vehicle.”
To accomplish this goal, Moyer examined ways to help motorists better see the children as they traveled along the road. Some Amish and Mennonite families bought hunting vests, but none were small enough for the children. She found that child-sized safety vests were not available to buy, so she and an Amish friend created patterns that fit small children and started sewing vests themselves.
The garments are made from lime-green or yellow-green mesh, the same material used by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Three vests can be made from 60 inches of material, and they can be small, medium or large, depending on the student’s age and height.
Reflective tape is sewn to the front and back of the vests, and Velcro is applied to the front. Elastic attached to the sides accommodates backpacks and coats.
Many members of the Anabaptist community, as well as residents of a local nursing home, now help construct the vests. The tasks are divided among the volunteers. For example, some cut Velcro into 4-inch strips, some cut or sew the reflective tape onto the vest and some put the edging and elastic on the vests.
“Many hands make it happen,” Moyer said.
With the help of cash donations from Cargill Animal Nutrition in Lebanon, CNH America LLC, Emergency Health Services Federation Inc. and individuals in the community — in addition to donations of reflective tape from Reflective Solutions Americas — Moyer and the volunteers have been able to make and distribute around 2,000 vests.
They hope to make 2,000 more for the coming school year.
During Moyer’s road safety program, she demonstrates road safety rules by using a display board with movable people, cars and buggies. She also demonstrates the vests’ effectiveness by having one child with a vest and another child without a vest stand at the front of the classroom. She shines a flashlight toward the children and asks the class to determine which child is better seen.
Moyer said that the Amish do not drive, and children think drivers can see them when car headlights shine on them. However, someone dressed in dark colors is seen by drivers from only about 55 feet away. Wearing a vest makes someone visible from 500 feet.
“A vest makes you much more visible so drivers will see you and have time to slow down or stop before hitting you,” Moyer said.
Reflective tape for scooters and bicycles belonging to Amish and Mennonite children also is being cut and will be handed out this year.