ProRail, the Dutch rail infrastructure operator is facing backlash over its “victim fashion” campaign, launched to create awareness among young people about safety around railway tracks. According to the BBC, the “fashion line” features torn jackets, shirts, dresses and other items of clothing worn by people killed or injured in railway accidents. The campaign is being promoted under the slogan “Victim Fashion, made by accident.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Netherlands’ Pro Rail is facing backlash for its latest “victim fashion” railway safety campaign.
  • The campaign features items of clothing worn by people killed or injured in railway accidents. 
  • Railway accidents are disturbingly common, hinting at lack of civic sense and care for safety among people. 
  • Where does a campaign cross the line from being hard hitting to being too disturbing to even look at?

According to the data cited in the article, the number of people killed on and around railways in the Netherlands has almost tripled since 2016, with 17 fatalities recorded last year. Thus it was indeed imperative to create awareness regarding railway safety. But is Pro Rail’s tactic correct? Is it okay to circulate images which signify someone’s death or life-altering injuries nationwide and on social media? Even if it is to spread the message of safety? Moreover, should we put sensitivity on the backseat for the sake of effectiveness of a campaign? Where does a campaign cross the line from being hard hitting to being too disturbing to even look at?

Railway accidents are disturbingly common across the world, hinting at lack of civic sense and care for safety among people. Take our own country, for instance, just last year Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain informed the Lok Sabha that nearly 50,000 people had lost their lives in the last three years on railway tracks after being hit by trains. The common causes for such accidents were trespassing, violating safety and cautionary instructions, avoiding over bridges, using mobile phones and other electronic gadgets while crossing the railway tracks, he informed.

At times it becomes necessary to educate people using techniques which may seem harsh. But leave a long-lasting impact.

At times it becomes necessary to educate people using techniques which may seem harsh. But leave a long-lasting impact. Photographs are one such medium, which effectively send across a tale of caution, which words often fail to. Some time back I came across a few people who shared images of their broken helmets on social media, which saved their lives during two-wheeler accidents. The images were very impactful, however, the outcome was positive. The helmets were crushed, but those who wore them were safe.

I think this is the difference which makes this campaign seem gruesome, insensitive and too dark. The outcome has been tragic here. These damaged clothes and shoes represent lives lost. They represent people who now have to live with life-long disabilities. It could act as a trigger for people who have been in accidents, or lost a near one in such a gruesome way. Perhaps the stories behind these things and their ragtag state may come across as disturbing to young people of an impressionable age, at whom this campaign is primarily aimed at.

I understand why Pro Rail felt the need to start this campaign, but their target audience may not be matured or tough enough to digest such images. The message they want to send across is relevant, essential in fact, but certainly there is another way to do it, which is easier to circulate among peers without having to worry how it may impact mental health.

Picture Credit : BBC/ProRail

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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