MONTREAL — Rail safety advocates are using virtual reality to highlight just how dangerous it can be to cross or trespass near train tracks.
Operation Lifesaver, a public-private partnership that promotes awareness of safety issues around crossings, launched a campaign Monday to mark the beginning of Rail Safety Week.
The campaign, called Look, Listen, Live, puts users in the shoes of someone experiencing the near miss of being struck by a train.
There were 45 rail-related deaths in 2015, with the number climbing to 65 last year.
Canadian National police Chief Stephen Covey said research shows that males between 18 and 35 are involved in many of the approximately 200 railway incidents yearly that result in death and injury.
The virtual campaign was designed with that age bracket in mind.
"It's a very difficult audience to get a message out to," said Covey. "If you get hit by a train, you will lose, so we feel that by living that experience, hopefully we'll be able to reach that audience and keep them safe."
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said with 44,000 kilometres of rail and 23,000 private and public crossings, Canadians need to be reminded of the dangers of taking shortcuts and crossing tracks in unauthorized areas or trespassing on railway facilities.
"People need to realize trains are immutable forces and you have to respect them and stay away from them," said Garneau.
Separately, the federal minister also said officials are awaiting a feasibility report into track bypass in Lac-Megantic, Que., the site of a rail disaster that killed 47 people in 2013.
Local residents have been asking for a rail bypass out of town ever since a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded, wiping out much of Lac-Megantic's downtown core.
Last week, Quebec's environmental-review agency said it will hold two months of public hearings, beginning May 23, into what to do with rail track in Lac-Megantic.
In January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to speed up the process.
Garneau said he's met with Premier Philippe Couillard, Municipal Affairs Minister Martin Coiteux and Lac-Megantic Mayor Jean-Guy Cloutier, but that there is no exact timetable in place.
"We have all agreed amongst ourselves that if we can speed it up, it would be better for the citizens of Lac-Megantic," Garneau said.
On the web: looklistenlive.ca
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Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press