Press Release – Farm Safety – 10/12/16
It is that time of year again when harvest has begun and farm vehicles are on the roads. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind you of the following safety tips for sharing the road with our neighbors:
Slow down when you see a piece of agricultural equipment. Most farm equipment is designed to travel at speeds of only 15-25 mph.
Watch for Slow-Moving-Vehicle (SMV) signs. SMVs are required for vehicles traveling less than 25 mph.
Watch for hand signals. Just because a tractor veers right does not mean the operator is pulling over to allow someone to pass. The size of farm equipment often dictates the necessity of wide turns.
Pass farm equipment cautiously. Do not always expect operators to drive their equipment onto the shoulder of the road. Driving with one set of tires on loose-surfaced shoulders substantially increases the risk of overturn.
Watch for flashing amber lights. This type of light often marks the far right and left of farm equipment. Also watch for reflective tape marking extremities and sides of equipment.
Remember that agricultural operators have a right to drive their equipment on the road.
Facts to consider
▲ Many collisions with farm vehicles happen during fall harvest. October has nearly twice as many collisions as any other month.
▲ The most common time of day for collisions to occur is between 4 and 8 p.m. This may be due to the large number of commuters coming home from work, plus farm operators returning from fields
Nearly half of all incidents between motorists and farm implements involve one of three scenarios – the left hand turn collision, the rear-end collision, or the passing collision.
The scenario: The left-turn collision is the most common type of farm vehicle incident on public roads. It happens when the farm vehicle is about to make a left turn; meanwhile, the motorist behind the farm vehicle decides to pass.
Why it happens: Like semi-truck drivers, operators of large farm vehicles, such as combines or tractor-wagon combinations, sometimes make wide left turns. Farm operators may swing to the right before making a left turn because they need the extra room to line up with a farm gate or driveway. This can be confusing, especially if you think the farm operator is moving over to let you pass.
Defensive driving tips:
▲ Is it really turning? Don’t assume a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right, or is letting you pass. Check the operator’s hand signals.
▲ Is there a turn signal? A flashing light on a tractor that suddenly stops flashing is a turn signal. Slow down when you see this signal.
▲ Where could it turn? Check the left side of the road for gates, driveways, or any place a farm vehicle might turn.
The scenario: The rear-end collision is the second most common type of farm vehicle incident on public roads.
Why it happens: It’s easy to misjudge speed when you come upon a slow-moving vehicle. In most cases, you have only a few seconds to react and slow down. For example, if you’re driving 55 miles an hour and come upon a tractor that’s moving 15 miles an hour, it only takes five seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between you and the tractor.
Defensive driving tips:
▲ Be alert. Always watch for farm vehicles on rural roads, especially at planting and harvest.
▲ Slow down immediately. As soon as you see a slow-moving vehicle, start to apply brakes like you would when approaching a stoplight.
▲ Keep your distance. Stay a safe distance behind farm vehicles. Most farm equipment is not designed to travel at speeds greater than 25 miles an hour. Even when towed behind a truck, equipment such as sprayers and fuel tanks often travels less than 25 miles an hour.
The scenario: Many collisions also occur when motorists pass farm vehicles.
Why it happens: Some farm operators haul equipment that is extra wide or long, which motorists don’t consider when they plan to pass. Many people assume that collisions happen during bad weather or hazardous conditions. The study showed nearly 80 percent of the collisions happened on dry roads.
Defensive driving tips:
▲ Be patient. Don’t assume the farmer can move aside to let you pass. Shoulders may be soft, wet, or steep, which can cause the farm vehicle to tip, or they may not be able to support a heavy farm vehicle.
▲ Make sure you’re clear. When passing, make sure you can see the farm vehicle in your rearview mirror before you get back in your lane.
▲ Enjoy the drive. Even if you have to slow down to 20 miles an hour and follow a tractor for two miles, it takes only six minutes of your time, about the same as waiting for two stoplights.