Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission
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Tall Corn Stalks Obstruct Views

As Iowa’s corn crop grows taller, motorists are urged to use extra caution at roadway intersections and railroad crossings where the driver’s view may be obstructed.
Iowa Department of Transportation statistics show there were 28 crashes during 2011 at rural intersections due to obstructed views by trees or crops. These crashes killed one person and caused at least 34 injuries, six of those were considered major.
Jeremey Vortherms, the Iowa DOT’s state safety engineer, said, “Obstructed views at highway and railroad intersections in rural areas are a common occurrence in Iowa during the summer and fall. Entering an uncontrolled intersection or railroad crossing requires an added measure of caution. Be alert and take the extra time; One Death is Too Many.”
During the summer months when corn detasseling and other agricultural operations are underway, and then again during the fall harvest period, traffic increases on rural roads, making encounters with other motor vehicles and farm equipment more frequent and often unexpected.   
While motorists often rely on dust patterns to judge oncoming traffic on gravel roads, Vortherms says this method is not reliable and should not be used. Periods of wet weather and special roadway treatments can hold down the dust and make it more difficult to tell if a motor vehicle is approaching on a side road. Loose gravel can also make controlling a vehicle very difficult when making any sudden stop.
Vortherms said motorists should treat uncontrolled intersections as if they had stop or yield signs posted, and not enter the intersection or cross the railroad tracks until they are absolutely certain no vehicles are coming from the side roads or trains are present, and then proceed with caution.
Trains can be very difficult to spot when tall corn stalks limit the view at a rural crossing. Tammy Nicholson, director of the Iowa DOT’s Office of Rail Transportation says, “Although trains are considerably taller than most crops, it still becomes difficult to see them approaching at an uncontrolled intersection where the view is obstructed by vegetation or other visibility hazards.” Nicholson reminds motorists to “Look, Listen and Live” when crossing railroad tracks.