The car as a suicide attempt

1. From Aaron Beck (1967) the father of depression in psychology

In discussing suicidal wishes of some of his depressed patients he states, “A suicidal wish may be manifested by the patient’s taking unnecessary risks. A number of patients drove their cars at excessive rates of speed in the hope that something might happen.”(p.31)

2. Case study from my book “Working with suicidal individuals” (2011)

Case study 2

A thirty year old man states that he has had thoughts of suicide but says that he could never actually do it. He has never made a suicide attempt. Instead he describes his reckless behavior as:  “It’s in the bad times when all the controls I have on myself I just let go of and it’s, ‘I will just do what I want’. This is when my drug taking becomes reckless. Also it’s in those times when I can get full of drink, get in the car and go driving recklessly”. When he is in this frame of mind the intravenous amphetamine use becomes reckless and there have been a number of hospitalizations due to over dose.

3. From a journal article on adolescent suicide (2008)

In discussing methods of suicide attempts researchers found common methods reported were – drug ingestion, cutting, shooting self with pellet gun, driving recklessly on purpose.


Logically this makes sense due to availability and ease. A motor vehicle is available to very large numbers of people. It is easy to turn a car into a suicide attempt, one simply begins accelerating until one is driving at very high speed. Even more so one gets intoxicated and then drives at very high speed.

It is interesting that in numbers 1 & 2 they distinguish between driving safely and driving recklessly. This would suggest that they know when they are making a suicide attempt in a car.

This is of course suicide by accident. They are not driving into a wall or tree but driving recklessly, so luck plays a part. Good luck and they wont have an accident and bad luck if they do.

This would suggest the statistics on suicide are underestimated, the rates of suicide could be much higher than reported if one considers the possibility or “car suicides” instead of car accidents.

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