The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is calling for safety improvements at railway crossings for people who use assistive devices, such as wheelchairs.
Upgrades could include improved lighting, more visual and audio cues, or changing the angle of the sidewalk.
The recommendation is part of a TSB report into the 2016 accident that claimed the life of a New Brunswick man at a Moncton railway crossing.
Steven Harel, 29, was fatally struck on July 27, 2016, when his wheelchair became stuck in the gravel at the edge of a sidewalk at the public crossing on Robinson Street at 1:45 a.m.
“The investigation found that several crossing conditions contributed to the accident, including a void in the asphalt and the lack of visual cues to navigate safely,” the TSB said in a news release.
The TSB is calling on Transport Canada, railway companies and road authorities to work together to make the improvements.
“Designated crossings are used by persons who have particular needs, so it only makes sense that they require particular consideration as to their design and safety features,” said TSB member Faye Ackermans in a release.
“More than two million Canadian adults identify as having a mobility disability, including 300,000 wheelchair users. Moreover, the number of persons with an assistive device is on the rise.”
The TSB says their investigation also revealed that new federal standards introduced in 2014 required railway companies and road authorities to share certain information about crossings, including identifying crossings designed for people who use assistive devices, by November 2016. The board goes on to say they are “concerned” some of this information has not been shared yet, which could prevent improvements being implemented in a timely manner.
WATCH: RCMP on the scene of a fatal train collision in Moncton on Wednesday, July 27
Since the accident, CN has made repairs to the Robinson Street crossing and the sidewalk areas. The City of Moncton is also developing its own crossing standards, which are scheduled to be implemented in 2018.
Harel’s parents are suing CN Rail, the City of Moncton, a wheelchair manufacturer and a medical equipment supplier in New Brunswick’s Court of Queen’s Bench for unspecified damages related to his death.
The lawsuit claims Harel waited an “excruciatingly long time” on the railway tracks after his electric wheelchair became stuck.
It alleges that CN Rail and the City of Moncton neglected their “duty of care” to inspect, maintain and fix the railway tracks, crossings and city streets and sidewalks, and also failed to facilitate safe public transportation and prevent accidents, particularly with regard to wheelchair-specific hazards.
Among the claims detailed in the lawsuit, none of which have been proven in court, it’s alleged the city and the railway company were both aware that the railway track was a source of accidents for wheelchair users, and failed to take corrective measures.
Brian Murphy, the lawyer for the parents, said Thursday that the family was given an advance copy of the report.
“There are some pretty solid recommendations there,” he said.
“We stand by our suit. This could have, and should have been avoided.”
Murphy said the parents aren’t looking for financial gain, but want things improved for people like their son.
With a file from The Canadian Press
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