TA 2019: NTARC suicide by truck figures a shock

New view indicates rate could be up to 37.5 per cent

TA 2019: NTARC suicide by truck figures a shock
The cover picture on the NTARC report


Amid the positive trend on many major heavy-duty truck accidents in National Truck Accident Research Centre’s (NTARC’s) 2019 Major Accident Investigation Report, its suicide-by-truck (SBT) figures were a cause of deep unease.

The issue has been raised at industry gatherings recently in relation to figures highlighted by Toll Group general manager road transport safety and compliance Dr Sarah Jones, who was at ATA’s Perth conference.

Jones’ research put the SBT rate impacting her company at 14-20 per cent but NTARC’s reports that the general experience may be up to double those figures.

In commentary to the conference that echoes statements in the report, author Adam Gibson, of NTI, explains that a criteria was developed which identified whether suicide was:

  • strongly indicated – typically by a note or explicit statement
  • indicated – meeting the civil burden of proof – "on the balance of probability"
  • counter-indicated – not meeting that burden of proof
  • strongly counter-indicated – where some other identified cause existed.

"This does not represent a final determination of whether a particular incident was a suicide – that determination has always been and remains the role of the coroner," Gibson says.

"However, this analysis provides a significant insight into challenges which may exist in trying to address light vehicle and at-fault multivehicle road deaths.

"Assessed against this criteria, 37.5 per cent of multivehicle fatal incidents in 2017 were either indicated or strongly-indicated to be suicide, with 20.8 per cent being strongly indicated as suicide."

Read Dr Kim Hassall’s view on the report and the lack of SBT statistics, here

On Toll’s experience, Jones notes at the conference that while 14 per cent of fatalities are confirmed suicide by truck – by coroners, police or insurers, with very high standard of proof – where people drive into a Toll truck to end their life, this might not tell the whole story.

"There is sound evidence that wish to spare their family and loved ones the stigma of suicide will utilise vehicular suicide as a means of disguising their intent," and empirical evidence is closer to 20 per cent, she says.

If you have been affected by this article, help can be found at Lifeline on 13 11 14, and beyondblue on 1300 22 4636. 


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