Meet OL Rail Safety Ambassador Luc Martel

We think four decades of saving lives is something worth celebrating. That’s why we’re marking Operation Lifesaver’s 40th anniversary by profiling some of the dedicated Rail Safety Ambassadors who help us spread the rail safety message.
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 across the country. We couldn’t do what we do without them.
Luc Martel is one of those Rail Safety Ambassadors. He’s the Chief of Prevention and Fire Response for exo in Montreal, and serves as chair of OL’s Quebec provincial committee. He spoke to OL about why spreading the rail safety message is important to him.

What have you learned in your time as a Rail Safety Ambassador?
On a personal level, what I’ve learned is that there’s always work to do. The people we are speaking to change all the time. So, we need to keep repeating the messages. Although the messages have evolved over time, it’s really gratifying to see how young people have picked up on them when we visit schools.
I really believe that if we can save a life, or prevent one unfortunate accident with our prevention and awareness activities, it’s enough. Because even one accident is too many.
What kind of difference do you think you are personally making as a Rail Safety Ambassador?
Of course, we would like to be able to measure the concrete impact of our activities. But it’s hard to measure. I would hope my work has an impact on young people in particular, because young people are our future. But what I would like to achieve is zero accidents. That’s the ultimate goal. And that’s why I try to do as much awareness as possible.
What interactions have you had with the public that have been the most memorable ?
One mother came to see me with her son after a presentation we did at his school. He was about 10 and had talked about it at home. The mother came to tell us that it had made her more aware of the dangers around tracks, because she sometimes acted dangerously, even with her children. She said she was always in a hurry in the morning, wanting to save a few minutes taking the kids to school. So, she came to thank us for educating her child—and also herself. It’s really gratifying to know that we reached that mother and her child like that.
What behaviours, when it comes to rail safety, surprise you the most?
What surprises me is people’s carelessness. Often, the signals and lights are there, the gates are lowered, the bells are ringing. But then people decide to cross anyway. They go around the gates, whether they are walking or driving. I don’t understand it. It’s a very careless behaviour. Signals are there to warn people. But people don’t follow them and this causes accidents that could easily be prevented.
Another dangerous behaviour we often see is people using cellphones. They hold their cellphones a few inches from their faces. They don’t see around them, and they don’t see the potential dangers. It’s dangerous, and it is generalized carelessness.
What would you say to people who behave carelessly around tracks and trains?
A lot of careless behaviour is because people are late—like that mother I spoke of. They are trying to save one, two, three minutes... But what I would tell them is that around railway tracks, what’s important is not whether you are one or two minutes late, but whether you’re safe. It’s better to be a little late than to not show up at all.
How long do you plan on continuing to be a Rail Safety Ambassador?
I want to stay in the rail safety field as long as possible. It’s something that I am really motivated by. I really want to ensure people’s safety and to improve safety around railways. To me, railway safety awareness and prevention will always have their place. And as long as that’s needed, I will be there.
Want to join Luc 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.