Norway mulls bridge fencing to tackle suicide

Norway's roads authority is considering spending several hundred million kroner on fencing for many of the country's bridges in a bid to cut suicide, while researchers warn that jumpers may simply choose another bridge.

Norway mulls bridge fencing to tackle suicide
Photo: Harald Groven

Around 500 people take their lives in Norway every year and 5 percent of them do it by jumping from a height. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Vegdirektoratet) is now considering securing more bridges across the nation in order to encourage more people to change their minds.

"We are referring to the downtown bridges in the larger cities and towns," said rre Stensvold at the administration.

The measure would however prove costly with the price tag to secure a mere 100 of the country's some 17,000 bridges coming in at around 200 million kroner ($36 million).

Furthermore international studies indicate that while security fencing can be effective on any individual bridge, there is no basis for the conclusion that suicide as a whole would decline.

"If you set up security fences on one bridge, it is possible that people will just go to another bridge," according to researcher Mark Sinoyr at the University of Toronto in Canada.

The example of Tromsø bridge in northern Norway would appear to support this assertion.

Seven years ago fences were increased to 2.5 metres and while there has not been a single suicide from the bridgeTromsø police report that they are often called out on suicide cases to a bridge on the other side of town.

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Satellite surveillance should replace tolls on Norway’s roads: council

GPS surveillance is a fairer method for charging motorists for their use of Norway’s roads than toll booths, says the Norwegian Road Traffic Advisory Council.

Satellite surveillance should replace tolls on Norway’s roads: council
File photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

The Road Traffic Advisory Council (Opplysningsrådet for veitrafikken, OFV), an umbrella interest organisation for road constructors, the motor industry and insurance and oil companies, says that GPS monitoring of traffic is the method of the future when it comes to charging motorists fairly.

“We wish to replace today’s toll booths with a system in which motorists pay based on where and when they drive and the emissions of their cars,” the Council’s head Karin Yrvin told broadcaster NRK.

But Director Atle Årnes of the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Datatilsynet) told the broadcaster he was sceptical over the idea.

“This type of dynamic road pricing will register even more information about us. Since it would be a continual registration of where we go, this is very significant with regard to personal privacy,” Årnes said.

Årnes added that GPS monitoring of all drivers could, nevertheless, be acceptable under certain conditions.

“A possible solution is that personal information is stored in individual cars, rather than centrally, and that only information necessary for billing is forwarded by the car,” he said.

Toll booths and stations already established in Norway present an existing personal privacy issue, Årnes continued.

“The toll stations send information for central registration every time they are passed,” he told NRK.

“Road pricing with localised GPS monitoring could actually be better for privacy,” he said.

Traffic Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen said earlier this year that the government was sceptical on dynamic road tolling, with surveillance concerns part of its considerations.

Yrvin told NRK that the privacy argument should be considered relative to the benefits of a fair tolling system.

“This way, society can fully implement the principle that polluters pay for their emissions,” she said.

Technology to implement the system already exists, Yrvin added.

Årnes said that, for many Norwegians, surveillance through internet and mobile phones had now become accepted to some degree.

“Cars are on their way to becoming ‘the new mobiles’, and you have less control over a car than something in your pocket. Mobiles can be turned off, or you can ask for sensors to be turned off. That is not so easy for a car,” he told NRK.

READ ALSO: Most Norwegians want GPS tags for children