The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034

Release:  May 10, 1999

UI report outlines initiatives to reduce tractor injuries, fatalities

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The lives of more than 2,000 farmers and farm family members could be saved over the next 15 years, according to the authors of a new University of Iowa report on tractor safety.

The report, "Tractor Risk Abatement and Control," published by the UI department of preventive medicine and environmental health, recommends a broad set of public and private initiatives to address the leading cause of fatal farm injury: the farm tractor.

Each year nearly 300 people on U.S. farms are killed by tractors. Some 20 percent of these deaths are children under the age of 18. The most common kind of fatal incident is a tractor overturn, which typically occurs when a tractor tips over while operating along an incline (such as a ditch), crushing the driver. Although all newly manufactured tractors now have Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS), and some older tractors have been retrofitted with ROPS, nearly two-thirds of all tractors in this country still lack this proven technology to save lives.

The report recommends a combination of legislative, educational and voluntary strategies to dramatically reduce tractor overturn deaths, including laws mandating ROPS on all U.S. tractors. The passage of similar laws in some European countries has virtually eliminated this type of farm fatality.

"Agriculture is the second most hazardous industry in the United States," said Kelley Donham, D.V.M., UI professor of preventive medicine and environmental health. "If we as a society are concerned about correcting this tragedy, we must address tractors, as they are involved in 50 percent of all agricultural deaths."

The report also outlines other factors involved with tractor fatalities, including runovers and extra riders, youths operating tractors and public roadway incidents, and makes recommendations for reducing deaths in these areas.

"Tractor Risk Abatement and Control" is the result of a policy conference aimed at building consensus among tractor manufacturers and dealers, farmers, researchers, extension service personnel, legislators, public health professionals and lawyers. The conference, which was held in September 1997, addressed sticking points that were preventing the development of an effective

intervention to reduce the risk to farmers. Concerns about issues such as industry liability and cost and inconvenience to farmers were stalling action on a comprehensive approach to reducing tractor deaths. The report is the result of the consensus opinion of a broad range of stakeholders.

"Enacting the recommendations in this report will save lives," Donham said. "To make it happen will take a concerted effort on the part of the agricultural and public health community." Donham chaired the policy conference and authored the report.

For more information, including a copy of the report, call (319) 335-4415.