I spent a good half-hour in traffic this morning as the express lanes of the 401 were closed due to reports of a ‘jumper’ who apparently leapt to his death into traffic around 6 a.m. just past the DVP.
For me, it was a minor inconvenience. For the drivers not far ahead of me on the highway, this will sadly be a life-altering experience. A few years back the City of Toronto constructed a fence along the Bloor Viaduct to prevent people from committing suicide by jumping into the bushes below. I recall reading someone leapt off the bridge there once every 21 days or so. It may have seemed like a simple solution at the time, but where there’s a will, there’s always a way. It seems to me there have been more high-profile instances of people jumping off highway overpasses into traffic since the fence was built.
Suicide is always a tragic event – even more so when innocent people are unwittingly involved. I have spoken to several professional drivers whose trucks were used as a ‘suicide tool.’ In one case, a young man drove his sports car head-on into a transport truck travelling in California. The truck driver’s life was forever altered – he had to give up long-distance trucking altogether. He told me the only thing that provided him with some solace is that police found a suicide note from the young man who drove into his truck. Yet, he still wonders what he could have done differently.
The lives of those drivers that witnessed, or were involved in, this morning’s event on the 401, will also be forever altered. This is something they will likely never fully recover from. What can be done to avoid this from happening again? Quite honestly, I don’t know. Obviously, I wouldn’t suggest police tear down the fence on the Bloor Viaduct or provide suicide-friendly areas at which people could end their lives. And if you build fences along all overpasses (which simply isn’t feasible), you still cannot stop pedestrians from leaping out into oncoming traffic from alongside the road. As I said before, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I suppose all we can do is hope that these incidents don’t happen any more frequently than they already do and hope the real victims of this incident – those who witnessed it or were involved in it (a truck was reportedly involved) – find the support they need to move on with their own lives.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies