Background: The majority of fatalities on the European Union (EU) railways are suicides, representing about 60% of all railway fatalities. The aim of this study was to compare time patterns of suicidal behaviour on railway tracks in Germany between two observation periods (1995-1998 and 2005-2008) in order to investigate their stability and value in railway suicide prevention.
Methods: Cases were derived from the National Central Registry of person accidents on the German railway network (STABAG). The association of daytime, weekday and month with the mean number of suicides was analysed applying linear regression. Potential differences by observation period were assessed by adding observation period and the respective interaction terms into the linear regression. A 95% confidence interval for the mean number of suicides was computed using the t distribution.
Results: A total of 7,187 railway suicides were recorded within both periods: 4,102 (57%) in the first period (1995-1998) and 3,085 (43%) in the second (2005-2008). The number of railway suicides was highest on Mondays and Tuesdays in the first period with an average of 3.2 and 3.5 events and of 2.6 events on both days in the second period. In both periods, railway suicides were more common between 6:00 am and noon, and between 6:00 pm and midnight. Seasonality was only prominent in the period 1995-1998.
Conclusions: Over the course of two observation periods, the weekday and circadian patterns of railway suicides remained stable. Therefore, these patterns should be an integral part of railway suicide preventive measures, e.g. gatekeeper training courses.