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UI student hopes tractor simulation study can make roads safer for farmers

In 2016, more than 400 farmers died from a work-related injury. The leading cause of deaths were transportation incidents, such as tractor overturns, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

A University of Iowa student hopes a study that uses a tractor simulation can lower those numbers.

Kayla Faust is a UI doctoral student in the College of Public Health, where she is studying occupational injury prevention.

"This is the rural road that we have them drive on as you can see there are pastures," Faust says behind the wheels of the simulation she created.

She’s doing her research at the university’s National Advanced Driving Simulator. Through the virtual reality, Faust is looking to test its realism.

"We’re having farmers come in and test it and drive it and then letting us know what we can do to make it feel, and drive, and sound, and look more like a tractor," she said.

For Faust, it only made sense to focus on agricultural safety after growing up in a farming family.

"I don’t know anybody personally that doesn’t know a farmer that hasn’t passed away from a tractor-related incident. Tractor-related fatalities are the number one cause of death — and since I have so many family members involved in farming, it’s a passion of mine," she said.

The results of the study can then be applied to future simulation studies, Faust hopes it’ll lead to making farming safer. The results could also encourage future design changes to farm vehicles.

"Our goal of this study is to design realistic simulators so that we can prevent some of those crashes in the future and make rural roads safer," Faust said.

To help the study, Faust is still looking for farmers to participate in it, specifically farmers over the age of 65 for test drives. Participants are asked to partake in one 60 to 90 minutes driving session at the NADS research laboratory in Coralville.

For more information, contact Faust at or call 319-350-8175.


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