Meet OL Rail Safety Ambassador Constable Melanie Rodriguez
Operation Lifesaver (OL) is marking 40 years of saving lives. To celebrate, we’re shining a light on some the great work that our Rail Safety Ambassadors do—because we couldn’t get our rail safety message out to Canadians without their help.
Rail Safety Ambassadors share our belief that every rail crossing and trespassing-related death or injury can be prevented. They volunteer their time to deliver rail safety presentations, share our posts and videos on social media, and take part in educational events. By doing so, they help us to save lives.
Constable Melanie Rodriguez is one of our many valued Rail Safety Ambassadors. She’s been a VIA Rail police officer in Ottawa for the past three-and-a-half years and is also the OL coordinator for VIA’s police department. She spoke to OL about why she thinks spreading the rail safety message matters.
How does working with OL help you in your job?
I find that Operation Lifesaver and working with VIA Rail just go hand in hand. Part of our job as VIA police officers is being involved with the community to promote rail safety…We do different presentations at schools, we have kiosks at our stations, and we do presentations to different community groups as well. Our hope is that this will help people to remain safe around railways, especially when they're at a railway crossing.
What risks do you see people taking on tracks and at crossings?
When we do our patrols at crossings, we see a lot of people not respecting the railway signage...For example, people crossing when the red lights are flashing. It's a very dangerous thing for them to be doing. The fact that people don't understand that they need to stop as soon as they see those flashing lights, that's really surprising. I'm also surprised that people don't know that these rules are in place for a reason—to save lives.
What do you wish people understood when it comes to staying safe around tracks and trains?
I think a lot of people don't know how fast a train really goes and how much time it takes for a train to stop. I think many people assume that a train can stop at a moment's notice. What they don't know is that it could take several minutes for that train to come to a complete stop. I believe that every rail incident is preventable and that we need to continue as ambassadors to just spread this message and prevent railway deaths.
Is there a particular group you try to reach with the rail safety message?
I particularly like giving rail safety presentations to little kids, because I feel like it can have a really big impact. After the presentations, they go home and they talk about what they learned to their family and to their friends. Even a few days after a presentation, I get calls from parents or emails from a teacher saying how the kids are still talking about the presentation. I also think it's very important to give them that rail safety message at a young age because they take it with them throughout their lives. They also share it with everyone they know as they grow older. It's also maybe not a message that gets talked about a lot at school and that's why I find Operation Lifesaver so important as an organization.
What do you personally get out of being a Rail Safety Ambassador?
Being a Rail Safety Ambassador is important to me because of all the rail incidents that I've seen in the past. I think that educating Canadians all across the country and having them know the dangers around railways is critical. Just knowing that I've reached one person or taught one person about rail safety, and knowing that it could have potentially saved a life, that makes it worthwhile for me.
Want to join Melanie and OL’s team of Rail Safety Ambassadors from coast to coast? Join us in celebrating our 40th anniversary by signing up today—and help us save lives.