Within the next year, a project to install nets underneath San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to prevent people from committing suicide will commence. Once this project is complete, the Coronado Bridge will experience the highest number of suicides per year, and it will become the deadliest bridge in America. Last month, two people jumped from the Coronado Bridge to their deaths within 48 hours of one another. In the past 18 months, 20 other people have taken their lives. This is a story that must be told.
Since its opening in 1969, nearly 400 people have committed suicide by jumping from the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. A feasibility study is looking at preventative suicide measures. (Union-Tribune File Photo)
Since the Coronado Bridge opened in 1969, nearly 400 people have committed suicide by jumping off the bridge to their death. We hear little about these stories because they aren’t often covered on the news. The stories of the people that impulsively end their life on the bridge have backgrounds that are often very similar to ours.
Those who have committed suicide come from all different professions, socioeconomic status, relationships, ethnicities and age. Typically, the people that end their lives by jumping, do so without any hesitation. They drive to the peak of the bridge, park their car, open the door, exit the vehicle and throw themselves over the 34-inch high guard railing without even the slightest pause. Within minutes, the car is towed away and traffic continues to move like normal. However, in the 3.5 seconds it takes to hit the water, a life, a family, a community is disrupted forever.
This topic intersects two important issues for our region — mental health and transportation. Research shows that by removing an impulsive outlet for suicide, the overall suicide rate will fall by the same value as the number of suicides from that outlet. In short, the vast majority of people will not commit suicide by another means. Not only would the suicide rate fall, the attempted suicide rate would also decrease dramatically. Eliminating attempted suicides would significantly reduce bridge closures and improve the reliability of our transportation network. More importantly, eliminating suicides on the Coronado Bridge would save lives.
If you frequently commute in the South Bay region, there is a good chance your drive has been interrupted by an attempted suicide on the Coronado Bridge. Standard protocol requires the bridge to be closed in both directions, while trained specialists work to help the individual contemplating suicide. The good news is that in situations where a person pauses long enough for specialists to arrive, they are less likely to end their lives. The bad news is the traffic disruption that results from the bridge being closed for several hours has a ripple effect across our region — emergency responders are unable to cross the bridge, Coronado residents in need of emergency medical care in San Diego may have to take a longer route in an ambulance, military service personnel are unable to get to work, and parents may not be able to pick up their children from school on time. An attempted suicide disrupts our region’s transportation network for hours. We hear about these stories each time the bridge is closed.
If nothing is done soon, the Coronado Bridge will experience more suicides and more closures from attempted suicides than any other bridge in our nation. This is not an issue we can ignore any longer. It is time for the Coronado Bridge to be retrofitted with preventative measures as well.
As a local elected official, I believe I have a responsibility to advocate for policies that ensure the efficient flow of traffic and I also have a moral obligation to prevent the loss of life. Adding suicide-preventative measures will accomplish both objectives. We must act now.
The state agency Caltrans, commenced a feasibility study to look at preventative suicide measures that is expected to be completed within one year. State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, authored and won passage in the Senate of legislation that could provide funding for a future solution, and the bill is currently working its way through the state Assembly.
I am calling on every elected official in our region to support adding safety measures to prevent the loss of life and improve the reliability of our transportation network.
This is a tragic story, and we must dedicate ourselves to write the ending so not one more life is lost to suicide on the Coronado Bridge.
Bailey is mayor of Coronado.
Original Post can be found here