Protecting Young Farmers

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Driving simulator puts tractor-driving skills to the test

 
By David Gamradt
 
 

Farming can be a dangerous occupation, especially for youth. Federal studies cite agriculture as the most hazardous occupation for youth workers, with tractor operations accounting for the majority of fatalities and scores of injuries on the farm.

The University of Iowa, with other institutions, is examining why tractor driving is dangerous for young people by testing their cognitive abilities to operate tractors. The goal, researchers say, is to prevent injuries to farm children by better understanding the limits of their abilities to operate tractors.

Researchers with the project, titled "The Role of Cognitive Development in Safe Tractor Operation: A Simulator Study," hope to have initial findings from the study early next year.

The experiments take place at the UI’s National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS), where youths from 10 to 17 years old drive tractors in a simulated, three-dimensional environment in a variety of settings, from a farm field to a country road.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is funding the research. Tim Brown, associate research scientist at NADS, is leading the simulation. The UI is partnering with the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, the National Farm Medicine Center, and other entities on the study.