Marathoner Breaks Leg on Tactile Dots, Urgently Calls for Safety Overhaul

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Following a fall that resulted in a triple-break to her leg caused by slipping on yellow tactile dots, 74-year-old Meg Rogers of Auckland had a lengthy and sombre recovery. The incident took place near Spark Arena in Auckland’s city centre last month, as Rogers was training for an anticipated marathon.

“One minute I was mere steps away from a marathon run, the next I found myself skidding on the tactile dots and crashing into a gutter,” Rogers shared, recalling her fateful stumble. She immediately knew her leg was broken and her training partners, quick to respond, flagged down an ambulance and cordoned her off from traffic.

Tactile ground surface indicators, such as the ones Rogers stumbled on, are installed by Auckland Transport as a necessary means of navigation for blind individuals and those with low visibility. However, their slick surface has proved hazardous, causing numerous slips and severe injuries. Despite being aware of this risk for over five years, Auckland Transport has not issued public warnings. Safer non-slip, tactile indicators made from pre-cast concrete are slowly replacing the dangerous plastic ones in certain locations, despite their continued prevalence throughout Auckland.

The tactile dots hold such a notorious threat that even the ambulance officer assisting Rogers slipped while trying to move her to the stretcher. As the result of the severe break, Rogers spent eight days in Auckland Hospital waiting for the swelling to reduce before enduring a four-hour surgery to insert plates stabilizing her leg.

This injury not only deprived Rogers of her long-awaited participation in the Croatia marathon, which she’d been organising for three years, but it also postponed her breast reconstruction surgery, planned after undergoing a double mastectomy two years ago. Frustratingly, the decision to delay her reconstruction surgery was confirmed only two days after her accident.

Adding to the ordeal of her ordeal, Rogers was discharged two days post-surgery with a heavy plaster cast, only a pair of crutches for their support. The horrendous first night at home saw her spend it huddled in cold, unable to reach her heating controls and stuck in the same clothes she had worn since leaving the hospital.

Facing a difficult recovery process, Rogers eventually had to budget $1000 to fly her sister in from Australia for assistance. Fortunately, Rogers’ plight was noticed by Amanda Malu from ACC who sent her a wheelchair, promising urgent reassessment of her needs, yet no instant resolution was provided.

Although deeply affected by the incident, Rogers emphasized the importance of tactile indicators especially for those with low vision and voiced her desire to see dangerous tactiles replaced, not removed.

Several others have echoed Rogers’ experiences, with a high number of serious injuries having been linked to slips on the yellow tactile dots. Leo Breva and numerous others have come forward with their stories, each one more distressing than the last.

In the wake of these disturbing accounts, Auckland Transport’s executive general manager of safety, Stacey van der Putten has acknowledged the urgency of the situation, confirming that an investigation and replacement of hazardous sites is being expedited. She admits that steps to mitigate these risks should have been taken earlier.

Although she affirms that the plastic tactiles were “certified to do the job” when installed in 2006, van der Putten acknowledges that some may have decayed over time, becoming unfit for purpose. Despite a directive issued in 2014 stating that only concrete tactiles were to be used for new installations, the hazardous plastic tactiles still line Auckland’s bus and train stations, and roads leading to public transport. As investigations roll out and remedial actions form, the massive toll on individuals caused by this overlooked hazard continues to ripple across the community.

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