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Accidents involving tractors are rare but usually serious

Tractors are relatively rare on German roads. Consequently, they do not figure largely in accident statistics. But when they are involved in accidents, more people than average are seriously injured or killed. For this reason, the UDV joined forces with the insurance companies Allianz and LVM to investigate where accidents involving tractors happen, the kind of accidents they are and the circumstances under which they occur. To this end, a database of 1010 accidents that occurred from 2006 to 2008 throughout Germany was set up and analyzed.

Accidents involving tractors tend to occur when they cross a larger road, turn into a larger road from a smaller road or turn off into a smaller road from a larger road. Failure to adhere to rules about priority and errors made when turning off a road are the most frequent causes of accidents.

The other party involved in the accident is most often a car (62.2% of accidents), but the involvement of two-wheel motor vehicles in these accidents is also conspicuously high (21.2%). The situation looks even more dramatic for motorcyclists if you consider only the numbers of seriously injured and fatalities. Motorcyclists account for more of these (39.8%) than car drivers (38.2%). As shown by a realistic crash test carried out by the UDV (www.youtube.com/unfallforschung), a motorcyclist has virtually no chance of surviving a collision with a tractor at 70 km/h.

Summary of findings:

  • Serious accidents happen outside built-up areas, in particular.

  • A disproportionately high number of young drivers are involved in the accidents.

  • The accidents tend to occur at intersections, junctions (e.g. with farm tracks), curves and at entrances and exits properties.

  • There are a large number of serious motorcycle accidents.

  • Serious rear-end collisions involving cars with tractors occur at night.

To mitigate or totally avoid accidents with tractors, the UDV’s recommendations include the following measures:

  • Young tractor drivers must be better trained.

  • All road users must be even better informed about the risk of this particular kind of accident.

  • Tractors with and without trailers must be made more conspicuous. This could be achieved, for example, if all-round lights, reflective tape, side lights and contour marking were approved.

  • Tail lights and indicator lights should be both larger and more stable.

  • Agricultural trailers should have a side underrun protection system.

  • Tractors should be equipped with lane departure warning systems.