Hundreds of people lose their lives each year on the U.S. rail system because of an act of suicide. In the U.S., researchers are just beginning to understand the problem and work with rail carriers to apply strategies to prevent these incidents.
Internationally, rail suicide has been a mainstream topic for years. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) worked with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) to convene a group of international experts who specialize in suicide prevention on the rail system. This group, known as the Global Railway Alliance for Suicide Prevention (GRASP), has met at least twice per year since 2013 to share best practices and research.
Six countries have regularly participated in the GRASP working group since its inception: Australia, Canada, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Members from France and Japan have recently become regular participants, and the group is continuing to expand with anticipated participation from the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand. Participants include researchers, regulators, and rail representatives who specialize in rail suicide and trespass prevention.
If your organization is interested in participating in GRASP, please reach out to Scott Gabree at Volpe.
The GRASP working group meets by teleconference or webinar at least two times per year and tries to arrange one in-person meeting per year. Volpe helps FRA organize these meetings. FRA and Volpe use insights from these meetings to shape their research agenda and allocate funds towards promising research.
FRA is pursuing the following research areas based on intelligence from the GRASP research group:
- In collaboration with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, an evaluation of signage promoting a crisis call center was inspired by a similar effort from Network Rail in the United Kingdom.
- The Ovenstone Criteria are used to help understand how to improve cause of death reporting for rail incidents in the United States. British Transport Police use these criteria to determine likely causes of death after rail incidents.
- Efforts to understand media impacts on rail suicide rates have been influenced by Australia’s Mindframe project and the work of the TrackSAFE foundation.
Next Steps for GRASP
The GRASP working group will continue to meet and share recent findings and best practices. GRASP membership continues to expand as industry representatives and researchers discover the group, and as members reach out to others who are advancing rail suicide mitigation strategies.
Volpe is also working to finalize a document that will catalog terminology used to describe rail trespass and suicide incidents around the world. The document will help international researchers share and compare data. It will be shared with the GRASP group and others interested in this area of study.
Below are the websites for GRASP members:
- Association of American Railroads (U.S.)
- International Union of Railways (France)
- Japan Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (Japan)
- Network Rail (United Kingdom)
- Pro Rail (Netherlands)
- RSSB (United Kingdom)
- TrackSafe (Australia)
- Trafikverket (Sweden)
- Transport Canada (Canada)
- UQam (Canada)
- VTT (Finland)
Notes from the most recent GRASP Working Group meeting are available here.