Locations where suicides occur

Railway suicides are imbedded in a geographical context that can be analysed and used for developing intervention strategies. The geographical characteristics we were able to analyse are:

Proximity to residence

The majority of people who commit suicide by rail do so within the limits of the town where they live (63.3%). When the address was available, we could specify distances more precisely. The following graph illustrates the distance pattern of suicides. It is interesting to note that 29.8% of people committed suicide more than 15km away from their home.

Percentage of suicides by distance between Home and Place of death


Location on the network

Suicides occur more often on open tracks (66.7%) than at crossings (29.1%) or in stations (2.2%). This is important for prevention, since most existing preventive strategies aim at preventing access to tracks or identifying people in stations.

Place N %
Crossing 104 29.1
Open Track 238 66.7
Station 8 2.2
Yard 3 0.8
Tunnel 2 0.6
Bridge 2 0.6
TOTAL 357 100.0

 Percentage of suicides Occuring in Different Settings

Suicides occur more often in urban areas (85%) than in rural areas (15%) which accurately reflects the population density. Railway suicides are an urban phenomenon because more people have access to the tracks there than in rural areas.

Percentage of suicide depending on Rural urban criteria


Proximity to mental health institutions

We were able to identify sensitive areas where more than one suicide occurred during the period covered by the study. A large portion of suicides took place in a sensitive area (45.2%). These areas were often located near a mental health facility (35.3%).


Railway suicide rates vary greatly by province in Canada. Variations occur in the number of suicides and in the proportion of suicides of all railway fatalities, with suicides accounting for a greater proportion of fatalities in British Colombia, Ontario and Quebec. In terms of absolute numbers of fatalities, railway suicides are more frequenbt in Ontario. These variations in numbers of suicides parallel variations in the population of the different provinces.

 Number of railway suicides by province over a 10 years period

The overall proportion of Ontario train suicides in the canadian sample is quite high (56.1% of all rail suicides)

Population by province


Although the numbers of railway suicides are stronly associated with the population of the provinces, the proportion of railway fatalities that are suicides varies. Although British Columbia has a small number of railway fatalities, they have the highest proportion of the fatalities being suicides. This proportion is important to consider when planning railway fatalities prevention strategies, since railway suicide and accidents are two diferent phenomena.


Implication for prevention

  • Two thirds of people commit suicide on railway tracks that are close to where they live. Therefore community intervention targetting high groups should take this proximity into consideration.
  • Two thirds of suicides occur on open tracks. This means that gaining access to tracks is fairly easy. A suicide method is less likely to be used if it not easily accessible. It also means that platform and in-station suicide prevention measures are not the most useful measures in the context of Canadian railway suicides. However, this situation is quite different in urban metro and subway systems where the only easy access to tracks is in stations and trains enter stations at a greater speed.
  • There are no significant suicide clusters on the canadian railway network. However, we were able to identify “sensitive areas” where more suicides occurred than elsewhere, particularly in Ontario and Québec. Fencing these areas may possibly be cost effective. 
  • Railway suicide is a problem that is associated with easy access. Therefore, the more people have access to tracks, the more suicides can occur. Limiting access to tracks in more densely populated areas will effectively reduce the risk of rail suicides.
  • Particular attention should be paid to areas surrounding hospitals and mental health services. Prevention programmes who target facilities near tracks, with the intent of increasing the institutions awareness of railway suicide risk amongst their patients, should be considered.