Suicide by truck, forcing a stranger to kill you with his speeding vehicle, is something that drivers don't want to think about and carriers don't want to discuss openly.
Experts don't know how often suicide by truck occurs because legally proving that someone purposely ran in front of a moving truck—or drove their car directly into its path—is difficult. Without a suicide note or verbal forewarning, it's nearly impossible. Moreover, the social stigma often attached to suicide causes police and courts to err on the side of calling the death an unfortunate accident.
In many instances, however, suicide is the only reason that makes sense once everything else logically is ruled out.
"Suicide probably occurs in more cases than we care to tell the jury that it occurs," says Bill Chamblee, managing partner of Chamblee Ryan in Dallas, who has represented trucking companies for more than 28 years. "Lots of lawyers and insurance companies, either consciously or unconsciously, are reluctant to suggest suicide."
About ten years ago, Chamblee had a case in Fairfield, Texas, where a woman parked her car at a gas station and walked on the entrance ramp to I-35. It was night and she wore dark clothing. A truck entering the highway, traveling at about 25 or 30 miles per hours, hit and killed her. There was nothing the driver could do and there was no reason for the woman to be there, he says.
Chamblee also notes cases in which auto drivers aimed their cars directly into an oncoming truck—truckers reported that it seemed intentional—but, again, suicide is difficult to prove even though no other reason could be offered.
For trucker Bob Eason there is little doubt about the circumstances last September when he hit and killed a man who parked his vehicle on the should of Route 287 near Montvale, NJ and stepped in front of his tractor-trailer. Eason is one of only a few truckers willing or able to talk publicly about the incident which continues to give him nightmares.
"I work very hard to put food on the table for my family, but I don't know why the guy chose my truck," he told NJ.com. "It's tough for me. I can't trust anybody. I don't believe that they're not going to jump in front of me and take their own life."
For more on the problem of highway suicide, and how truckers cope, see Larry Kahaner’s complete story, Suicide by Truck: When Nothing Else Makes Sense, on FleetOwner.com.