Tuesday, December 2, 2008
A brightly colored media
Members of the media are required to become a bigger target on federal highways for people who like to throw things at reporters and photographers.
They are among ambulance workers, firefighters, police and others who are under a federal mandate, effective Nov. 24, to wear safety vests at highway emergencies on interstates and other roads that are repaired with U.S. money.
A couple weeks into the rule, I have yet to see anyone wearing these vests at the appropriate times. Yet the responsible-minded editors where I work at the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa., this week passed around bright orange vests in the newsroom that are identical to the one worn by the model in the photo, above.
This fashion statement sort of reminds me of a silly notion someone had at the newspaper 15 years ago to require reporters and photographers to wear hard hats at spot news assignments. And, then someone else decided it was necessary to waste money to buy us all yellow strobe lights to pop on the roofs of our vehicles when we got on the road to an accident or fire. No one ever used these things.
The vests, though, are a good idea for those of us who want to stay alive on interstate highways, even though I strongly believe that photographers can best do their work when they blend into the background.
More than 100 workers are killed each year in the highway construction industry, the federal government reports. At least 50 firefighters were killed when struck by vehicles at accident scenes between 1996 and 2006, The Altoona Mirror reported in May. That newspaper also claims the uniforms with reflector tape that firefighters have been wearing do not meet the new law’s requirements.
With the country in a recession and fire departments in rural Pennsylvania struggling to raise money to meet expenses, it’s going to be a burden for some of them to buy these vests.
If the state and local police are not now wearing these vests, it’s doubtful that anyone is going to enforce this law. I envision my new vest becoming crinkled, rolled up in a ball and growing dust balls behind the passenger seat of my trusty Ford Ranger.