Rural roads can be hazardous for drivers due to poor roadway conditions, high travel speeds and frequent encounters with farm equipment and other slow-moving vehicles. Results of a five-year study published recently 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. 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,” lead investigator Karisa Harland said.
The team of researchers from the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota found that the percentage of alcohol-impaired crashes involving farm equipment varied by state. North Dakota and South Dakota had higher proportions of alcohol-impaired driver crashes than the other states studied. Most crashes resulted from the impaired driver of the passenger vehicle rear-ending or running head on into the farm equipment.
Not surprisingly, a greater percentage of 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,” Harland said. “Overall, the proportion of alcohol impairment in crashes involving farm equipment is low — less than 3%. However, when these crashes occur, they can be devastating, because most of them result in an injury or death. 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.”
The percentage of alcohol-impaired driver crashes differed for each state, but North Dakota and South Dakota had the highest percentages (Figure).