Sports Stars Join Rail Safety Effort

Ottawa -The campaign to save lives along Canada’s railway tracks has taken a leap forward with a new team effort by stars from the National Hockey League and Canadian Football League.

English and French-language radio and television stations across Canada are airing a new series of dramatic Public Service Announcements (PSAs) featuring stars from the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers of the NHL, and the BC Lions of the CFL. The PSAs, sponsored by the safety groups Direction 2006 and Operation Lifesaver, highlight the dangers faced by motorists and pedestrians every day along the railway tracks.

Early results from the radio campaign are truly impressive. Three hundred and sixty-six commercial stations and 32 college and university stations have confirmed airing them. Anticipated usage is a minimum of 49,410 airings with an estimated advertising value of $3.29 million, said Roger Cameron, Chair of the Direction 2006 program’s communications committee.

Response from the stations has been most encouraging. Brenda Dittrich of the 15-station Alberta Radio Group said: “They sound great … good job!” Eileen Neumann, Creative Director of CHUM Radio in Toronto said “we always run your PSA’s on rail safety on 1050 CHUM and 104.5 CHUM-FM … they (provide) very cool information for our listeners.”

And Normand Gagnon, Production Manager for the Rythme FM Network in Quebec, said: “Excellent concept et très bonne production. Les messages attirent l’attention. Très percutants! Nos auditeurs à travers la province vont sûrement en bénéficier. Vous pouvez compter sur notre appui.”

One of the new radio PSAs takes the form of a game show called “Distractions”. The host asks the star contestant to name five things that distract drivers and cause collisions with trains. Another message, on both TV and radio, talks about parallel sets of train tracks. A driver or pedestrian may wait for a train to pass before crossing, but not look both ways. That can have catastrophic consequences if a second train happens to pass by from the opposite direction. The radio version ends with, “so even if there’s only one set of tracks, look both ways, and live.”

Canadiens’ defenceman Mathieu Dandenault said he joined the campaign in the hope of preventing the “devastating impact” of collisions between vehicles and trains. Dandenault, who won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, also said it is important for sports celebrities to give something back to the community, adding that the effort to save lives along railway lines is a cause that he is happy to endorse.

Jason Clermont, star slotback with the BC Lions, said he is taking part in the safety campaign to send a positive message to young Canadians and hopefully save lives.

Rail safety messages began airing 10 years ago, and have featured a long list of sports celebrities. The effort has received overwhelming support from radio and television stations, which have donated air time worth millions of dollars each year.

Many stations say the high production values of the PSAs are a factor in their decision to air the safety messages. In fact, the radio PSAs have won four awards at the New York Festivals radio advertising competition, which receives entries from top stations, networks and advertising agencies around the world.
The ongoing public awareness campaign is cited as a key reason that Canada has one of the best records in the world for preventing deaths and injuries along train tracks. Direction 2006 and Operation Lifesaver also point to effective partnerships they have formed with community and industry organizations across the country.

Deaths and serious injuries involving train incidents have been trending downward over recent years, although there was mixed news in the figures for 2005. According to statistics from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, there were 102 fatalities last year – up from 93 in 2004, and 72 serious injuries - down from 83 in 2004.

Railway Association of Canada Operations and Regulatory Affairs Vice-President Mike Lowenger stresses the importance of continuing the safety efforts because the potential for tragedies along the railway tracks is growing as communities, highway and railway traffic expands.

Also taking part in the new radio and TV campaign are Lions’ lineman Carl Gourgues, CFL Hall of Fame kicker Lui Passaglia, George Laraque and Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Edmonton Oilers, and rail safety advocate Bill Challenger, president of Airchime Manufacturing Corp. Ltd. of Langley, BC, the world’s leading manufacturer of locomotive whistles.


Click here to download the photographs in JPEG ( 327 KB )