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Vehicular fatalities : accident or suicide?


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Gunn, CF 2012 , 'Vehicular fatalities : accident or suicide?', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Literature review. Vehicular suicide : overview and directions for future research.
Suicide remains a significant public health problem, and a manner of
death which is often misclassified by coroners. There are no standardised
criteria for coroners to assist with manner of death determination, and the
decisions as to which deaths are attributed to be suicides are often
complex, and vary both between individual coroners, and coronial
jurisdictions. Despite the variety of available means of suicide
completion, only a few methods are commonly used (e.g., overdose,
hanging). Often overlooked as a means of suicide is the fatal single vehicle
crash. A motor vehicle presents an ideal means of suicide, due to
ease of access, frequency of use, inherent risks involved, and the ability
to conceal one's suicidal intent from others. Previous research has
suggested that suicide by motor vehicle crash may be attributed to
between 1.5% and 5.0% of all vehicular fatalities, but some motor vehicle
fatalities are misclassified as accidents, with the true rate of suicide by
motor vehicle crash unknown. Suicide prevention strategies have had
limited success in reducing the rates of suicide by restricting the
availability of access to means of suicide completion. Suicide by motor
vehicle crash does not allow for this method of suicide prevention to be
implemented, therefore further research is required to not only determine
a more accurate account of the number of suicides by motor vehicle
crash, but also to establish strategies to prevent suicide by motor vehicle
crash and to clarify the parameters by which coroners determine an
individual's manner of death.

Empirical study.
An examination of 100 closed coronial case files was conducted, (N 100)
involving vehicular fatalities (the death of the driver, passenger, pedestrian
or cyclist). Ninety-five percent of cases were determined by coroners to be
accidental deaths, 2% were deemed to be suicides and 3% were not
attributed a manner of death. Key features of each vehicular fatality were
identified, including; speed travelled at the time of the crash, road and
weather conditions, seatbelt use, substance use and psychological history.
Backwards stepwise logistic regression was performed to explore the
influence of certain variables on the likelihood a fatality was the result of
suicide or an accident. The model indicated a statement of suicidal intent
and the presence of alcohol to be significant variables in differentiating
between an accident and suicide. This model correctly identified 98% of
cases as either accident or suicide, highlighting two discrepant cases where
regression analysis suggested a manner of death determination in contrast to
that provided by the coroner. The results presented are consistent with
previously reported figures concerning the rate of vehicular suicide and are
discussed in terms of the implications of public health and road safety
campaigns, as well as improvements in accuracy and consistency in the
determination of manner of death.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Gunn, CF
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2010 the author

Additional Information:

Thesis (MPsych(Clin))--University of Tasmania, 2012. Includes bibliographical references

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