Drunk Driving May Have Led to Tractor Crash

Date: August 24, 2010
Location: Highway 20 near Burns, Oregon
Names: Michael Paulsen, Dean Nikkel

An SUV crashed into a farm tractor on Highway 20 near Burns, Oregon, on August 24, 2010, seriously injuring the SUV’s driver, who may have been under the influence of alcohol.

The crash happened around 8:45 PM. An SUV driven by Michael Paulsen, 19, of Vale, was traveling east on the highway, when it struck an eastbound John Deere tractor driven by Dean Nikkel, 24, of Burns.

The crash sheared off the tractor’s left-side tires, but Nikkel managed to move it off the road. Meanwhile, the SUV went up in flames, trapping Paulsen inside. Firefighters could not reach Paulsen to free him from the wreckage until they had extinguished the fire. Paulsen was first taken by ambulance to Harney District Hospital in Burns, then later flown to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.

OSP troopers said they were “investigating alcohol as a possible contributing factor for Paulsen.”

A drunk driver puts everyone on the road at risk, including himself. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are up to 36 deaths and 700 injuries every day in the U.S. due to motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. The CDC reports that in 2006, 13,470 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. This comes to almost one-third of all U.S. traffic deaths. And in 2007, more than 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence – but this is less than 1% of persons who admit to driving impaired each year. Male drivers and young people are especially likely to be involved.

We encourage people to educate themselves on Oregon’s drunk driving laws, and our website contains information that can help. But when a drunk driver is involved, the law becomes very tricky, and you should contact an experienced Oregon injury attorney.