8 August 2019

Vanessa Low's life is a lesson in light rail safety

| Lachlan Roberts
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Vanessa Low lost both her legs after stumbling onto train tracks in 2006. Photo: Facebook.

A 15-year-old Vanessa Low’s life changed forever after a simple accident.

As she was waiting to board a train in her hometown of Ratzeburg in Germany, she stumbled and fell off the train platform and onto the tracks of an oncoming train.

When she woke up from a coma two weeks after the accident, she had lost both legs above the knee and doctors told her she would never walk on a daily basis again.

Five months later she was taking her first steps without crutches and a decade later she won a gold medal for long jump 2016 Paralympics at Rio de Janeiro.

Low is Canberra’s first-ever Rail Safety ambassador. She will use her story to educate the community of the importance of safety on and around tracks and crossings and ensure Canberrans are rail safe.

The ACT Government released a video earlier this week of around two dozen near-misses on the light rail corridor as pedestrians and motorists narrowly avoid being hit by an LRV.

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel is reminding all residents in the ACT to pay attention to their surroundings around the light rail corridor and encouraged pedestrians not to use their mobile phones around the corridor.

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and we can all work harder to reduce the risk of someone getting hurt,” Mr Steel said. “It is important that we all take steps to be safe.

“This includes staying behind the yellow line at the light rail stop, stopping to look both ways before you cross, and paying attention around the tracks and stops.

“We know that students and other passengers are often using their mobile phones but we need to make sure that around light rail, people are paying attention and not using their mobile phones when they are crossing the rail track.

This man is lucky to be alive after falling onto the tracks earlier this year.

“These steps apply to all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. We ask that all road users remember to always check blind spots, particularly to your right, before crossing light rail tracks.”

Pedestrians and cyclists should be alert to their surroundings, limit distractions such as mobile phones and headphones when walking or cycling near or across light rail tracks, and only cross the tracks at designated walkways.

While travelling on board a light rail vehicle, make sure you hold onto something if you are standing and exercise courtesy towards others.

When getting off the light rail, look to make sure the road is clear when exiting the stop, and only cross the tracks on a green pedestrian signal, as a vehicle coming from the other direction might be hidden from view.

If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of others on board a light rail vehicle, please use the Emergency Help Point on platforms and onboard to contact staff.

Motorists are reminded to take the following steps to be safe around the light rail:

  • Always obey traffic lights and road signs.
  • Never queue across the tracks.
  • Perform U-turns only where U-turns are signed as permitted.
  • Exercise patience when waiting at traffic lights.

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