The National Centre for Treatment of Pelvic and Acetabular Fractures at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin has recorded that around 10 per cent of the cases it sees each year involve a single-vehicle collision with one occupant, and are suspected attempted suicides.
Dr John McElwain, a professor of trauma orthopaedic surgery, told RTE Radio’s News At One that around 12 out of the 120 major trauma cases which the centre sees each year are likely attempted suicides.
Professor McElwain said the injuries are the most difficult musculoskeletal fractures to treat.
RTE News surveyed some of the country's coroners, and a small number crashes were identified as suspected suicides.
Of the 13 coroners who responded to the survey, eight cases over the past five years have been identified as possible or attempted suicides by four coroners.
Six cases were possible suicides and two were attempted suicides, involving both men and women, RTE said.
Prof Denis Cusack, Director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety at University College Dublin, said the number of intended deaths through single-vehicle, single-occupant car crashes is relatively small, in the overall context of road deaths.
He said that deliberate self-harm by means of a car crash is more likely to result in serious or catastrophic injury.
He said the incidents generally occur “in the early hours of the morning or late at night”. They also can involve “excessive speeding”, and intoxification of the driver through alcohol or drugs, he said.
Prof Cusack said the priority must be to provide the social, psychological and mental health service supports for people who are in distress and at risk.
A coroner can only return a verdict of suicide if three conditions are met. It must be shown that the deceased took their own life without any third party, the person was intent on taking their life, and the self-killing and the intention are proven on the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.