Suicide-by-train prevention strategies

Each year, there 275 to 325 suicides and 30 to 50 suicide attempts on U.S. rail systems, according to Federal Railroad Administration data. Suicides involving trains are emotionally trying both for railroad administrators and their employees, who often need counseling to deal with the shock, guilt or anxiety such a traumatic event can cause.

Since suicide figures have remained at relatively high levels for many years, railroads continue trying to figure out what role they can play in prevention and which viable countermeasures they can implement. With more than 300,000 miles of track in the United States, fencing it all off isn’t doable.

Predominantly, railroads are focusing prevention efforts on employee and public messaging, and industry-wide information sharing. Union Pacific Railroad has tried to take a lead role in that regard, in part by organizing a rail industry summit on suicide prevention and training employees to spot the warning signs of a potential suicide.

In addition, research is ongoing that could help railroads learn about other successful countermeasures and better understand why suicides are occurring on their systems at such a high rate. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center is taking a multi-pronged approach to suicide-by-train research with the aim to prompt such benefits.

I recently checked in with UP and the Volpe center to learn more about their suicide prevention efforts. The results of those discussions: this article I wrote for our website. If you have any stories or thoughts to share on suicides in the rail industry, please use the comment section below.

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