Why we didn’t air the suicide car chase video

By Megan Carpentier
Friday, September 28, 2012 17:16 EDT
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Do you need to watch a man blow a hole in his head with a weapon to learn that he did it?

Every 13.7 minutes in America, someone takes their own life. According to CDC statistics, about 30 percent of women and 56.3 percent of men who commit suicide do so with a gun. A gun is the most fatal method for those who attempt suicide.

Do you need to watch a car chase to know that one happened, and that it was likely futile and certainly dangerous?

The NHTSA estimates that 360 people die each year as a result of high-speed car chases — though statisticians suspect that the real number is 3 to 4 times higher because the statistics don’t account for people who die as the result of their injuries or those who die after the police officially stop chasing. The National Institute of Justice estimates that 90 percent of car chases are for non-violent offenses. A 2004 study suggests that one-third of car chase fatalities are innocent bystanders.

In our estimation, the news story wasn’t necessarily that there was a car chase, that it was dangerous or that it resulted in a fatality — those things happen more or less every day. It wasn’t that a fellow American and fellow human took his life — which also happens every day. It was that he did so with television cameras following him (an apparent risk factor), and that those stations following him aired that footage of his suicide in violation of what are long-established cultural norms.

Our condolences go out to this man’s family, who now have to live with knowing that thousands, if not millions of people, watched the final seconds of their loved one’s life.

For anyone thinking about taking their own life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
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