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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Iowa Study Shows Farm Equipment Operators Should Be Cautious of Alcohol-impaired Drivers

A recent five-year study from the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and researchers from the University of Minnesota found that alcohol-impaired drivers of passenger vehicles pose a danger to farm equipment operators on rural roads.

[Photo: Dr. Karisa Harland]

The study, published in the December edition of Traffic Injury Prevention, identified more than 60 alcohol-related crashes involving farm equipment in four Midwestern states.

“We found that the passenger vehicle drivers were more often impaired than the farmers operating their equipment,” says Dr. Karisa Harland, associate research scientist in the department of emergency medicine at UI and lead investigator on the study. “This is important because these impaired drivers may be slower to recognize and react to farm equipment, and more likely to misjudge the differences in speed of the equipment on the roadway.”

The team of researchers found that the percentage of alcohol-impaired crashes involving farm equipment varied by state. North Dakota and South Dakota, respectively, had the highest proportions of alcohol-impaired driver crashes when compared to the other states. Most crashes resulted from the impaired passenger vehicle driver rear-ending or running head-on into the farm equipment.

Not surprisingly, a greater percentage of the alcohol-impaired crashes occurred at night and on weekends.

“We know that during critical times of the year, farmers have to work around the clock. Overall, the proportion of alcohol impairment in crashes involving farm equipment is low—less than three percent,” says Dr. Harland.  “However, when these crashes occur they can be devastating, because most of them result in an injury or death.”

Dr. Harland says there is a continued need for educating all road users about alcohol use while driving and the appropriate ways to interact with farm equipment on roads.