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Suicide and Our Skyway Bridge

Suicide and Our Skyway Bridge

The Tampa Bay Times published an editorial concerning suicide prevention and the Skyway Bridge.  It applauded the state’s Department of Transportation for attempting to lower the suicide rate on the bridge-it’s been climbing for years now and ranks as one of the deadliest bridges in terms of suicides in the country.  Eighteen people jumped to their deaths from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge last year, a record number that surpassed the previous high of 13 set in 2003 and again in 2017. That’s just more than one a month.

While this is not a new problem, the number of those who decide to take their own lives by jumping from the Skyway has accelerated at an alarming rate, prompting the DOT review.

One the one hand, it’s nearly impossible to stop someone from taking their own life if they are bound and determined to do so.  However, I agree with the Times that it should be made as difficult as possible, if not impossible to make such a decision.

According to the Times, “officials are studying vertical barriers that could be installed along the bridge walls to deter suicide attempts. In addition, the department is about to install new technology that will detect pedestrians and stopped cars in an effort to alert authorities more quickly to a potential jumper.”  engineers considered adding netting or fencing in the 1990′s, but were left with too many question marks. A fence would prevent officials from using the proper equipment to inspect the bridge. There would be issues with aerodynamics because of wind and height. Birds could get trapped and the netting could push a jumper back into traffic during a failed attempt.

The Florida Highway Patrol regularly monitors the bridge for such activity and there are call boxes linked to a crisis hot line for potential jumpers.  The only measure that is new are the vertical barriers.  The other measures may be laudable but they aren’t preventing people from jumping.

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