BACKGROUND To study driver suicides, all motor vehicle driver fatalities in Finland from 1987 to 1991 were analysed.
METHOD Cases were collected from all driver fatalities (n = 1419), as those that accident investigation teams considered possible suicides (n = 99). Drivers committing suicide classified according to ICD-9 by two forensic pathologists were selected as cases (n = 84). Drivers of unintentional motor vehicle fatalities served as the control group.
RESULTS While 5.9% of all driver fatalities were classified as suicides, the figure given in the official statistics was 2.6%. Driver suicides accounted for 1.2% of all suicides. Fifty per cent of driver suicides were committed by men aged between 15 and 34 years. The victims had often suffered from life-event stress, mental disorders and had alcohol misuse problems. The cases were usually head-on collisions between two vehicles with a large weight disparity.
CONCLUSIONS Misclassification of driver suicides does not significantly influence the total suicide rate. However, people who commit suicide by this method could often be recognised, and prevention of these events would improve traffic safety.