Headed back to the fields

Even one accident involving a piece of farm equipment is one too many.

According to the latest statistics available from PennDOT, there were 88 crashes, including two fatalities involving farm equipment with other vehicles – mostly from people running into farm vehicles – in Pennsylvania in 2012.

“We think in our minds every one of these could have been prevented. That is part of the goal. We believe they are preventable. If we get the word out, we can reduce the possibility of these accidents,” said Mark O’Neill, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau spokesman.

The farm bureau will be sponsoring the annual Rural Roads Safety Week April 13-19.

“The goal of the campaign is to avoid accidents at all costs. We believe they are avoidable,” O’Neill said. “Everybody should be able to get to their destination safely.”

The Blair County Farm Bureau, for the first time, will be running a radio advertising campaign, said Gary Long, farm bureau spokesman.

“The purpose of the ads is to make the public aware that it is spring and slow moving heavy farm equipment will be on the roads, to let people know farmers will be moving their heavy farm equipment about,” Long said.

“The biggest part of the campaign is safety awareness for the benefit of the public. April is typically when the planting season starts,” O’Neill said. “We want drivers to be aware it is speed which causes most of the accidents. People can be driving fast and come around a curve and find they are on top of a slow-moving vehicle.”

Motorists should watch out for slowmoving vehicles, which are required by law to display the slow-moving vehicle emblem (an orange triangle) on any piece of equipment that travels the road slower than 25 miles per hour.

“When you see the slow-moving vehicle emblem, you should immediately slow down. Think of the slow-moving vehicle emblem as a warning to adjust your speed,” O’Neill said.

Farmers should make sure their emblem is clean and visible, and they can also place reflectors on the edges of their vehicles or use reflective tape, said Jamie Legenos, PennDOT spokeswoman.

Motorists need to be patient.

“We try to emphasize you need to respect slow-moving vehicles. You need to be patient and yield to the wide vehicles, and don’t assume the farmer knows that you are there,” Legenos said.

“Most farm equipment is very loud, and the farmer will probably not be able to hear your vehicle. Do not assume the farmer knows where your vehicle is located,” O’Neill said.

Farmers realize they may be holding up traffic and do their best to let motorists go by, but if the farmer starts to pull his or her vehicle to the right that doesn’t mean he or she is making a right turn or letting you pass – due to the size of some farm implements, the farmer must execute wide left turns, Long said.

Under a new law, farmers are now permitted to drive their slow moving vehicles on rural roadways at night.

“I had fought for this for years. I always felt it would be safer to move farm equipment at one o’clock in the morning than at sunrise,” Long said.

Farmers can also help by avoiding driving their vehicles during heavy traffic times or in bad weather. They also can use pilot cars in front and back of their equipment if traveling a long distance. Farmers also should consider installing mirrors on equipment to enable them to be aware of motorists around them, Legenos said.

“It is like a two-way street for farmers and the public cooperating to make sure each gets to their destination in a safe way,” O’Neill said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.