OTTAWA - Modern, multimedia kiosks were launched today at Central Station in Montreal and the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa as part of Operation Lifesaver’s Rail Safety Week in Canada.
Others will follow in communities across Canada. Their message is direct: Look, Listen and Live! Dan Di Tota, OL’s national director, said the objective of the program, and its partners, is to save lives along Canada’s railways.
The kiosks, more than eight feet tall, were designed by ExpoZone of Ottawa and are based on an educational, interactive CD-ROM developed by Dimension 4 Multimedia of Chicoutimi, Quebec.
More than 50,000 copies of the CD have been produced for distribution to elementary and high school students across Canada. The CDs give people of all ages access to dynamic, feature-rich content that illustrates the risks of being on or near railway property, and the importance, for motorists and pedestrians, of safe behaviour around trains.
The CD “will help us reach out to families and communities, particularly in rural areas, where we have limited resources or no volunteers to present material,” said Mr. Di Tota, a former locomotive engineer.
Crossing collisions and trespassing incidents along Canada’s railways average 300 annually – down from more than1,000 a year in 1980. Operation Lifesaver is an on-going program that was developed the following year to reduce related deaths and injuries. Direction 2006 is a special industry/government/community initiative that is helping drive those numbers down by another 50 per cent by year-end 2006.
The new CD-based material is “stand alone, and designed for technologically-savvy audiences of all ages” said Luc Tremblay, project manager at Dimension 4 who was in charge of the production team.
“The CD can be used independently without the need for a presenter or teacher,” he said. “It gathers all Operation Lifesaver and Direction 2006 material into a single medium so there is less need for tonnes of video tapes and books. It’s a good compromise. It doesn’t provide everything, but it encompasses a lot.”
Di Tota said the CD can also be used to enhance the abilities of Operation Lifesaver presenters, and to complement other resource materials such as pamphlets and videos.
“The general goal is to get the safety message out in a new way. The more people it reaches, the better,” Di Tota said. “The more people who know, the more alert they will be, and hopefully they will pass on those tips.”
“Schools would use this for sure,” said Emma-Lee Regimbal of Beaconsfield, a Grade 7 student who helped test the program. “It’s fun, it’s educational and it’s put together really well,” she said. “The amount of information jam-packed into different video segments, quizzes and text was impressive. Compared with other ways of introducing information to students, such as lectures, posters and booklets, this is best. It’s more fun, and it gets you more interested.”
Its effectiveness comes not only from the technology, but its’ serious tone. “It’s scary. You see the videos where people appear to get hit. It makes you realize – I’m not going there,” Regimbal said, watching a video segment simulating a child falling between the freight cars of a re-starting train.
The production agency tried to instill seriousness into the program in different ways. In this process, the role of the main character in the program, the locomotive engineer, is critical, said Tremblay. “This character looks funny, but is serious at the same time. He has a sense of credibility, and is a mirror to these engineers.”
The production agency also played an important part in making the program effective for all ages. The section of the program that Regimbal said she preferred was in the teenaged student category. “It’s more challenging than the other ones,” she said.
Regimbal’s preference is not surprising to Tremblay. Each age group has a section of the program designed to be the most interesting and applicable for them, he said. “We wanted it to be attractive to the eye, but credible for all age levels.”
Which is why the CD has characters like Rocco the Raccoon telling his story for younger children, while 3D teenagers holding personal digital assistants (PDA’s) target Regimbal’s age group. Everything was considered, from content to emotion and voice intonation, said Tremblay.
Di Tota said he hopes this vehicle of information can be used in several places, “to get through to today’s youth using new technology.” Libraries, schools, fairs, service clubs, media outlets and after school clubs are all arenas where Di Tota and Direction 2006 would like to see this tool being used. “We’ve found that most people are unaware of the dangers of trespassing on rail property.”
This new means of communication will hopefully mean a new consciousness of the potential risks at highway-railway crossings, and the dangers of trespassing.
Railway Association of Canada