‘There needs to be continued education’
IOWA CITY — A relatively low portion of accidents between farm equipment and passenger vehicles involve alcohol. But those that do tend to be more dangerous and deadly, according to a new study out of the University of Iowa.
Karisa Harland, UI adjunct assistant professor of emergency medicine, led the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-funded research from the UI’s Great Plains Center for Agriculture Health.
She said the hope for the study — published this month in “Traffic Injury Prevention,” a bimonthly peer-reviewed journal — is to educate motorists and farmers and encourage preventive practices.
“From a farmer perspective, they need to make sure that their equipment is well lit,” Harland said.
She added making equipment such as tractors and combines more visible could be as simple as “cleaning off your slow-moving vehicle sign so it’s more reflective and replacing it if it’s starting to fade.”
“From a motor vehicle and passenger vehicle standpoint — obviously there needs to be continued education on the risks of driving while impaired,” she said. “And also on interacting with farm equipment on the roadways.”
The study comes at an especially relevant time after former reality TV star Chris Soules in April crashed his truck into the back of 66-year-old Kenneth Mosher’s tractor just north of Aurora. Soules, 35, was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal crash, as Mosher died in the collision.
First responders found empty and partially consumed open alcohol containers in and around Soules’ truck, and he also was seen buying alcohol before the crash, according to court documents. His attorneys reported two urine and blood samples were negative for drugs or alcohol, but authorities said Soules went home after the crash and refused to open the door until law enforcement obtained a search warrant hours later.
His trial is scheduled for Jan. 18, and he faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Harland, who started her research in 2011 and wrapped it earlier this year, said the case hit the news as she was absorbed in her study and analyzing its findings.
“If felt like our research was timely,” she said.
But the Soules case bucked her study’s findings — that odds of an injury or fatality are more than two times higher for passenger vehicle drivers than for those operating the farm equipment.
“If you have a gigantic combine and a small car runs into it, the car is going to absorb all the energy and therefore that person is more likely to be injured,” Harland said.
That size difference likely explains why alcohol-related collisions between farm equipment and passenger vehicles — while less frequent than standard vehicle crashes — more often have devastating consequences.
“If we’re looking at only crashes that involved alcohol impairment, which we had 61 of those, then 75 percent of those 61 had either an injury or fatality,” Harland said.
Her research analyzed data between 2005 and 2010 from four regional states — Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Researchers found data for 1,971 total on-road farm equipment crashes — with Iowa reporting the most crashes, at 1,023, and North Dakota reported the fewest, at 165.
But North Dakota reported the highest percent involving alcohol, at 6.1 percent, while Iowa reported the fewest involving alcohol, at 2.4 percent.
The 61 total alcohol-related farm equipment crashes has them accounting for just 3.1 percent of the total — which is smaller than for standard vehicle crashes. One in 20 of the farm-equipment crashes resulting in injuries, or 5.6 percent, and one in six of the fatality crashes, or nearly 18 percent, involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
Meanwhile, 30 percent of standard fatal motor vehicle crashes involve alcohol.
Reasons for the difference could include timing, Harland said, as farm vehicles aren’t on the road as often and aren’t as prevalent at night, outside urgent harvest seasons.
“Other than in the fall when they’re maybe working 24/7, or the spring … my hypothesis would be that the farm equipment is probably not on the road at night when there is more likely to be an alcohol involved crash,” she said.
But because farmers in this and neighboring rural states do sometimes have to traverse the roads at night, Harland said her research sheds a spotlight on the risk of doing so and the need to improve awareness and prevention efforts.
“Although these crashes with alcohol are rare, three percent, when it does happen, there are severe consequences,” she said.
Cray Chicken: Crosses faster than any other chicken, but if you don’t dip it in liquid nitrogen first, it arrives on the other side fully cooked.
The new year will mark the official start of, and there are fears it could lead to more impaired driving. Among U.S. drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for drugs, more than a third in 2015 had used marijuana.
At the University of California San Diego, researchers are trying to help police detect whether a person isto get behind the wheel.
When you drive on Marcotte’s simulator, he’s not checking how good a driver you are – but how bad a driver you may become high on pot.
“The idea of the off ramp is actually something that the police suggested to you,” CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen said.
“Because in their estimation, that’s one of the areas that are most difficult for impaired drivers to handle,” Marcotte responded.
The real test subjects light up, some with a real joint, others with a placebo. Then they are put through the simulator challenges like deciding whether it’s safe to drive through a yellow light. They also face a multi-tasking test: finding the right circle.
It’s all designed to eventually create a tool, perhaps a tablet test, that police can use roadside to determine if someone is too stoned to drive.
“The ultimate outcome is to see whether or not we can really help law enforcement separate those people who are impaired due to cannabis or those people who may have cannabis in their system and are not impaired,” Marcotte said.
Unlike alcohol, there is no accepted marijuana breathalyzer. Blood tests can be inconclusive depending on when the test is taken. To make it more complicated, pot affects different people differently.
“There are indications that the more experienced you are, the more tolerance you develop,” Marcotte said.
“So a person who smokes a lot might actually have less effect when it comes to driving?” Petersen asked.
“That’s correct. Because their body is adjusted to it, they know what to expect,” Marcotte said.
California Highway Patrol’s Sgt. Glen GlaserJr. teaches officers how to recognize a driver under the influence.
“How much does this end up making a kind of a judgment call, if that’s the right word?” Petersen asked.
“Well, I think it very much is a judgment call because we want our officers only arresting people who are impaired,” Glaser said.
Right now officers mostly rely on subjective observations like walking the line and “is there a pot smell in the car?”
While a lot of Californians are looking forward to January 1 when recreational marijuana goes on sale, Glaser and police across the state are braced.
“The big scare is going to be those people who are going to try for the first time come January 1 and not knowing how it affects their body,” Glaser said.
One day, the simulator may lead to an answer and help catch someone impaired by pot before getting too high gets someone hurt.
Quantum Logic Chicken: The chicken is distributed probabalistically on all sides of the road until you observe it on the side of your course.
A Los Angeles police officer was seriously injured when a man allegedly driving while impaired crashed into his patrol SUV on the shoulder of the San Diego (405) Freeway while he was outside the vehicle conducting a traffic stop on another motorist, authorities said Tuesday.
The crash occurred at 11:47 p.m. Monday on the northbound freeway near Santa Monica Boulevard, California Highway Patrol Officer Tony Polizzi said.
The officer had just pulled over the driver of a Honda Accord for alleged speeding, and he was outside his 2014 Ford Explorer SUV, which was parked behind the Honda, when a 2003 Infiniti Q35 crashed into the SUV, which then struck the officer, the CHP reported.
The officer, whose name was not released, suffered a “major” injury, the CHP reported. According to reports from the scene, the officer suffered a serious leg injury. He was hospitalized in unknown condition. An LAPD spokesman declined to provide a condition report, citing privacy concerns.
“It was a close call,” CHP Officer Vance Perreira told reporters at the scene. “Any time you operate on the right shoulder of the freeway, it’s never safe.”
Perreira said CHP officers were driving in the area a short time after the crash occurred.
“They said it could have been about … a minute after it happened,” Perreira told ABC7. “They passed by, were first on scene, rendered aid, possibly saved his life.”
CHP officers arrested the driver of the Infiniti, 34-year-old Douglas Donovan of Woodland Hills, and booked him on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the CHP reported. He was not injured.
The driver of the Honda also was not injured.
All northbound lanes were closed until about 6 a.m., when two lanes were re-opened, the CHP reported. By about 7:30 a.m., all but one northbound lane had been re-opened. The remaining lane was re-opened a couple of hours afterward.
Anyone with information on the case was urged to call the West Los Angeles Area CHP office at (310) 642-3939.