Around two-thirds of traffic suicides occur in rail traffic and one third in road traffic, according to a new study by Trafi, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Finnish Transport Agency and Liikenneturva. Joint intent, cooperation between actors and a wide range of measures are the keys to suicide prevention. Assessing fitness to drive also emerged as a way of preventing traffic suicides.
A total of 789 suicides occurred in Finland in 2014, around 10% of which occurred in traffic. Although the number of all suicides has fallen by around a third since the start of the millennium, no similar trend is discernible in traffic suicides. The objective of the study now being published was to form an overview of the factors related to suicides in road and rail transport, and of further research needs.
Accidents involving suicide in rail traffic tend to involve people being hit by trains, while those in road traffic tend to involve collisions with heavy vehicles. Other road and rail users tend to be involved in both cases – the drivers of road vehicles, trains or metro trains, who are affected by the collision.
Traffic suicides often involve a range of problems related to life management. For example, the use of intoxicants and mental health and interpersonal problems tend to be common. The backgrounds are similar to those of suicides in general.
As in other types of suicide prevention, the key to preventing traffic suicides lies in the identification of persons at risk of committing suicide and guiding them towards the appropriate treatment at a sufficiently early stage. The treatment of depression and substance abuse is important, as well as ongoing support for close friends and relatives, and low-threshold crisis intervention. In the same context, physicians should take note of their patients' ability to drive vehicles safely. This issue is also highlighted in Trafi's new guidelines on fitness to drive.
In addition, structural measures such as fencing off tracks close to railway stations, and building central barriers between lanes for traffic moving in opposite directions, have a role to play in the prevention of traffic suicides.
"However, no single measure is enough on its own: we need broad cooperation between different actors and a range of measures. It is important to remember that anyone – whether they work for the authorities or are just members of the public – can help identify someone at risk of suicide and point them towards treatment," emphasises Inkeri Parkkari, a Chief Adviser at Trafi.
Inkeri Parkkari presented the findings of the study at the international Safety 2016 conference in Tampere today, 19 September 2016.
Inkeri Parkkari, Chief Adviser, tel. +358 29 5347 089, inkeri.parkkari(at)trafi.fi, on Twitter @InkeriParkkari (road traffic)
Kirsi Pajunen, Chief Adviser, tel. +358 29 5346 830, kirsi.pajunen(at)trafi.fi, on Twitter @KirsiPajunen (rail traffic)