The Suicide in Road Transport (SiRT) National Working Group (NWG) has been established by the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) and Austroads. The NWG brings together associated industry representatives, experts and government to better understand the issue of suicide in road transport and collaboratively identify and explore potential options to address the problem.
The NWG will be delivered collaboratively through the Austroads funded SiRT project by the NRSPP.
Suicide can be a difficult issue to discuss, with each person’s death having far-reaching and long-lasting effects for individuals, families, organisations and communities.
Discussion of suicide method can also be problematic for those who are vulnerable to suicide or in a suicidal crisis.
If this briefing raises any issues for you, please set your GP or regular mental health. These crisis support services are also available 24 hours a day:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.
Suicide is a major public health problem and is one of the leading causes of death in Australia. In recent years, there has been an average of 3,000 suicides in Australia. To provide some further context in 2018, suicide was ranked as the 13th highest cause of death overall (causing 1.9% of all deaths in Australia). It is the leading cause of death in the younger demographics (e.g. 15-44 year olds) as younger people aren’t dying from heart disease or age-correlated issues.
In the last 50 years there has been considerable investment in suicide research and prevention, and a key focus has been the methods used in suicide attempts. Restricting access to the most widely used means of suicide is the most effective approach to prevention.
Road traffic suicides
Suicides on the road system are relatively rare but like all road trauma have significant impacts on the system and other road users. Road traffic suicides are a particular problem for the heavy vehicle industry with drivers placed at risk of death, injury, and trauma. The distress can impact many people, including drivers of other vehicles, passengers, first responders, witnesses and bereaved family members
There has been little research about suicides that involve road traffic.
In part, this is because of the difficulties in distinguishing suicides from other types of road crashes.
The difficulty of identifying suicides that occur on roads mean that they are widely regarded as under-counted. Estimates from different countries suggest between 1% and 10% of road fatalities may be suicides.
In Australia and New Zealand, road traffic suicides are excluded from road trauma fatalities. This data is used to assess the safety performance of roads and the road transport system, and suicide is considered an unrelated public mental health issue.
The SiRT Project
The purpose of SiRT project to investigate and understand the scope of suicide in road transport and seek to reduce its impact.
The project encompasses any suicide within the road system and those using it. It will consider how suicides by road transport impact workers (including drivers and first responders) and family, and how incidents are being measured, reported and communicated.
Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the project, it will be delivered as four streams of work:
- Stream 1: Communications and Language – development of guidelines which are evidence-based and consistent with other death by suicide impact areas led by Everymind.
- Stream 2: Data – identification and analysis of data sources to understand the size of the problem, trends, and identify the optimal identification, classification, collection and reporting of suicides in road transport led by Griffith University.
- Stream 3: Interventions – reviewing what has been done to date to understand what has been developed, and its effectiveness and transferability to the road related sector led by Griffith University.
- Stream 4: Research – expanding the research base of suicides in road transport in relation to partnering with larger relevant research projects and stimulating research centres through three research projects to explore the:
- impact of suicide on road transport on third parties led by Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Australia consortia;
- barriers to interventions in relation to suicide in road transport led by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention; and
- interventions in relation to suicide in public places as a supporting funding partner with the University of Melbourne National Health and Medical Research Council.
The NWG met in 2019 to workshop the project development and will be responsible for reviewing and finalising the findings and recommendations of all the streams before the work is consolidated into a single report and the supporting resources are developed. The NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority is generously hosting the NWG workshops which are being held in Sydney.
The SiRT project follows an analysis of suicide data provided by Toll Group. This data of 19 incidents reported between 2008 and 2016, reflect the pattern of Toll’s operations and are not necessarily representative of other suicide data. Toll Group shared their research with the NRSPP Steering Committee (on which they sit) and following the presentation, the NWG was formed and Austroads committed to providing exploratory funding to identify a path forward to better understand the issue. The outcome of the exploratory research is the formation of the current SiRT project.
The Toll Group research can be viewed webinar Learning the Lessons: What Ten Years of Fatalities Data at Toll Group can Teach Us about Road Safety.
Research undertaken by the UK’s Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) and Samaritans in 2017 can be viewed in the webinar How understanding suicide on UK Roads may help prevent them, insights for Australia.