Iowa’s corn crop is struggling due to the drought, but the plants are tall enough to cause some problems on roadways. Jeremey Vortherms, a safety engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation, is reminding motorists to approach rural intersections with extreme caution. “As the corn comes up in height, it cuts off some of the sight triangles at the intersections – making it hard to see oncoming traffic from other approaches,” Vortherms said. There are normally about 50 crashes each year in Iowa due to sight obstruction on rural gravel intersections and driveways. “So, it’s not a (large) number, but it represents a certain risk to drivers who use those type of roads,” Vortherms said. Most rural intersections are not marked with stop or yield signs. Some motorists speed through those intersections if they don’t see dust from an approaching vehicle.
Even with the lack of rain, that’s a bad idea, according to Vortherms. “We try to encourage people not to just rely on the dust trail at this time of year. When we get rain, that dust trail…it just doesn’t exist,” Vortherms said. He adds “defensive driving at slower speeds” on rural roads is critical at this time of year. Iowa DOT statistics show there were 28 crashes during 2011 at rural intersections due to obstructed views by trees or crops. The crashes resulted in one fatality and caused at least 34 injuries.