Technical Reports

Defining Characteristics of Intentional Fatalities on Railway Rights-of-Way in the United States, 2007–2010

  • 09
  • May
  • 2013
AUTHOR: Alan Berman, Ph.D.; Ramya Sundararaman, MD, MPH; Andrea Price, Ed.M.; Karen Marshall; Michael Martino; Ann Doucette, Ph.D.; Stephanie Chase, Ph.D.; and Scott Gabree, Ph.D.
OFFICE: RPD
REPORT NUMBER: DOT/FRA/ORD-13/25
SUBJECT: Human Factors, Trespasser Programs
KEYWORDS: Trespassers, Suicide, Safety, Human Factors, Security
ABSTRACT: This report presents aggregate findings from 55 psychological autopsies of decedents who were identified as an intentional death (i.e., a suicide) on railroad rights-of-way between October 1, 2007, and September 30, 2010. The goal of this study was to assess whether there are unique characteristics of individuals involved in suicides on railroad rights-of-way compared with individuals who complete suicide by other means. The aggregate findings show that this sample of suicides on railroad rights-of-way share much in common with samples of suicides by other means. Only a few notable unique characteristics were found in the former population: the cases are more significantly marked by both severe mental disorder and substance abuse, the individuals tend to live near railroad tracks, and they are possibly less likely to have access to firearms. Additionally, the majority of these completed suicides occurred in urban or suburban areas as opposed to rural areas. The information collected for this effort may provide valuable information for the development of countermeasures or other intervention plans to mitigate this issue on railroad rights-of-way.
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