Yellow caps – 15 years of making roads safer for children starting school

To increase school starters’ visibility and traffic safety, If donates baseball caps will reflective tape to all first-year pupils in Finland. Over the course of 15 years, more than a million children have received their own yellow cap.

Every year in August, when children go back to school, a new group of first-year pupils will be sharing our roads. In 2006, If employees were thinking of ways to promote road safety through a positive and long-term activity that would attract children’s attention.

They came up with the idea for a reflective cap, which would alert motorists to small schoolchildren just learning to get to school independently.

Improved visibility in traffic

Straight away in 2006, some 3,000 Finnish schools ordered a cap for their first-year pupils. The caps have fluorescent yellow reflective tape, which help to improve children’s visibility in traffic. Over the years, the cap has been redesigned to keep it in tune with children’s changing fashions.

‘With the yellow caps, we want to encourage people to think about both children’s road safety and their own behaviour on the road. It is great to see that people think that their behaviour in traffic has improved over the past ten years in Finland’, says Isabel Bergström, Brand Manager at If.

According to If’s survey, Finns believe that the most important ways to ensure safe school travel are the good examples of road-safety behaviour set by parents, the increased provision of pedestrian and cycle paths and underpasses, and the use of reflectors and reflective material.

Finns drive more cautiously when schools start

Three out of four people in Finland consider road-user behaviour to be good. Nearly one in two drivers said that they always drove carefully, whilst ten years ago only around one third of the respondents felt this way.

In addition to those who are always careful, 43 percent of motorists say that, when schools start in August, they change their driving behaviour by, for example, driving with more caution near pedestrian crossings or slowing down near schools.

‘We always emphasise the role both of parents of the children starting school and of all motorists in making the roads safer for children to get to school. Parents should travel the route to school together with their child before the school year starts, and all motorists must slow down near schools and be particularly careful at road crossings’, explains Isabel.

Finns have embraced the yellow caps

Over the past 15 years, the yellow caps have gained visibility in Finland. In 2020, 58,000 children began their first year at school, and almost 55,000 yellow caps were sent to schools. The initiative has been well-received: in a survey in autumn 2020, six out of ten respondents considered it positive because it promoted an important cause and communicated it with a cheerful and clear message.

‘The message and visual appearance of the yellow caps have evolved over time. In August 2020, we asked many Finnish social media influencers to join the initiative. They shared photos and memories of their first day of school on their social media channels’, says Isabel.

The yellow caps initiative plays an important role in If’s sustainability work.

‘We wish to be part of people’s daily lives and do our part to improve road safety. The yellow caps initiative makes a fantastic contribution toward the achievement of this goal’, says Isabel

Isabel Bergström

Brand Manager, If