Statement of purpose The purpose of this research was to build a tractor-driving miniSim, describe its perceived realism, and use it to examine associations between age and tractor-driving performance among farm-equipment operators (FEOs).
Methods/Approach FEOs completed a simulated drive and a survey scoring four realism domains (i.e., appearance, user interface, control, and sound) of the tractor simulator using a Likert scale (from 0 = not at all realistic to 6 = completely realistic). Overall realism and domain scores were calculated. FEOs provided suggestions for improving the simulator before completing a second drive where they encountered a driving hazard. Driver’s perception response time was analyzed for association with age and selected covariates.
Results The simulator received favorable realism scores for all domains with ‘appearance’ receiving the highest average realism score (4.58, SD = 1.03) and ‘sound’ receiving the lowest (3.86, SD = 1.57). The most suggested improvements were to tighten the steering wheel (27%), make the front tires visible (19%), and that no improvements were needed (18%). FEOs 65+ responded 5.00 [95% CL=-1.23, 11.24] seconds slower than younger FEOs when adjusted for medical diagnoses, labeled medication use, tractor generation, and tractor horsepower.
Conclusion The realism scores and suggestions from the FEOs demonstrated that the tractor miniSim is a viable approach to studying tractor driving. When examining the association between age and driving performance, it demonstrated that older FEOs have slower perception response times and therefore greater crash risk than younger FEOs.
Significance Farm equipment crashes represent the nation’s leading cause of work-related death within the deadliest occupation. As farmers continue to grow older, the need to understand their age specific risk factors for injury will continue to rise. Trends demonstrated in this study have the potential to become more significant as tractors increase size and velocity thereby increasing stopping distances.