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Farmers, motorists urged to apply caution on roads
Illinois Correspondent

EUREKA, Ill. — A University of Illinois (UOI) Extension crop systems educator is urging motorists to be extra cautious when encountering large, slow-moving farm implements on rural roads and highways during the fall harvest season.

Another Extension ag expert is urging farmers to do the same.

“Motorists need to remember when traveling on rural roads to stay alert,” cautioned Pete Fandel of the Woodford County Extension office. “Even if you have to follow a farm vehicle traveling 20 mph for two miles, it will only add six minutes to your trip. That is about the same time as waiting for two stoplights. It’s better to possibly arrive late than to never arrive at all.”

According to the National Safety Council, collisions between farm vehicles and automobiles are five times more likely to result in fatalities than accidents involving passenger vehicles. Especially dangerous are formerly rural areas that now have subdivision entrances. It takes only seven seconds for a 400-foot gap to close between a car traveling 55 mph and a tractor going 15 mph.

Fandel said collisions between farm vehicles and automobiles happen in a variety of ways, though the most common scenario is the left-turn collision.

“It happens when a farm vehicle is about to make a left-hand turn, meanwhile a motorist behind the vehicle decides to pass,” Fandel said.

“Twenty-two percent of all farm-related accidents occur in this manner. Keep in mind large farm vehicles, like semi-trucks, may need to take wide left turns. The operator may not be able to see what is behind them until they are already into the turn. To avoid an accident, a motorist should never assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right, or is letting you pass.”

In Illinois, there has been 2,341 rear-end collisions between passenger vehicles and farm implements in the last seven years. These accidents are more likely to be “catastrophic” due to speed differences between the vehicles, Fandel said.

“It is easy to misjudge the speed of a farm implement. Most farm vehicles are not designed to travel at speeds greater than 25 mph,” he said. “As soon as you see a farm vehicle, start applying the brakes.”

Attempting to pass farm vehicles is another, often fatal mistake motorists can make. “Some farm equipment is extra wide or extra long, which motorists don’t consider when they plan to pass. To avoid these types of accidents, do not assume that the farmer can move aside to let you pass. When passing, make sure you can see the farm vehicle in your rear-view mirror before you attempt to get back in your lane,” said Fandel.

Meanwhile, farmers can ensure their own safety during harvest by following a set of guidelines described in the Illinois Vehicle Code, said Bob Aherin, a UOI Extension ag safety specialist:

•Farmers should mark the back of all equipment with retro-reflective, slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblems. Since Sept. 1, 2004, the triangular, fluorescent SMV emblems have been required by law for all vehicles that travel at 25 mph or less. Vehicle sides and extremities (planters, discs, etc.) should also be marked with retro-reflective tape, Aherin suggested.

•Make sure to use proper lighting such as headlights, rear lights and turn signals when operating farm machinery on roads.

•Make sure flashing, amber lights are visible on both the front and rear of the vehicle an on both far right and far left sides.

•Make sure all equipment is in “transport” position before entering roadways. This includes folding hydraulic wings and transporting combine headers on trailers.

•Do not operate farm machinery on roads during heavy rain, fog or times of high dust. Make sure there is at least 1,000 feet of visibility.

•If a vehicle is too wide to provide right-of-way to motorists on two-lane roads, use escort vehicles at both the front and rear of the vehicle.

In addition to combines and tractors, Fandel recommends motorists keep an eye peeled for grain transport trucks entering and exiting fields for the next couple of months, as well.

This farm news was published in the Sept. 13, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.