Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011
Leaders of Georgia’s agriculture and highway safety communities are joining forces to draw attention to an increasing number of crashes involving farm equipment on Georgia roads. Gary Black, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, and Harris Blackwood, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), are kicking off the “Improving Georgia’s Yield Behind the Wheel” campaign with the help of Zippy Duvall, President of the Georgia Farm Bureau, which is the largest farm organization in the state of Georgia.
Why? Because we know that in 2010, there were 300 crashes involving passenger vehicles and farm equipment in Georgia. Unfortunately, those crashes resulted in five deaths. While that may seem like a low number, just one death is one too many. And many more of those crashes resulted in serious injury to the equipment operator, driver or both.
Commissioner Black, Director Blackwood and Mr. Duvall will be visiting several farm communities all over the state during what Governor Nathan Deal has proclaimed “Georgia Farm Safety Week.” On Friday, October 14th, they will meet with groups in Harris County, Early County, Tifton, Statesboro and Perry to help remind farmers and drivers alike how to safely share the road this year and every year.
“We may think of farm safety as only applying to working with chemicals, livestock or equipment on the farm itself. It is important for motorists and farmers to remember that farm safety includes our highways as well. This important message needs to get out to all Georgia drivers,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.
One of the best tips to keep both farmers and drivers safe is being patient. Farmers understand your trip is being delayed when you are traveling behind them and will pull off at the first safely available opportunity to let you pass. But pulling over might not be as simple as you think. Shoulders may be soft, wet or steep, which can cause farm vehicles to tip, or they might not be able to support a heavy farm vehicle.
So here’s some simple math to help you remember that what may seem like an inconvenience is hardly so when you have beautiful, rural scenery to enjoy. Even if you have to slow down to 20MPH and have to follow a tractor for two miles, it takes only six minutes of your time. That’s about the same as waiting for two stoplights. Furthermore, if you are driving 55 MPH and come upon a tractor moving 15MPH, it takes only five seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between you and the tractor.
“All too often, a motorist driving at or above the speed limit will encounter a tractor, combine or other piece of farm machinery that is travelling at only 15 or 25 miles per hour,” said Director Blackwood. “A collision between a passenger vehicle and a tractor can easily result in serious injury, or in some cases, even death.”
Remembering that both farmers and motorists can take precautions to ensure safe travel on Georgia’s rural roads is the key. Just as motorists are entitled to operate their vehicles on public roadways, farmers are also legally allowed to operate farm equipment on those same roadways.
“The Georgia Farm Bureau appreciates the effort our state leaders are making to highlight road safety in rural areas and to educate motorists about what they should do if they encounter farm equipment on the highway,” GFB President Zippy Duvall said. “Farmers and motorists can work together to help prevent needless accidents if we all follow the recommendations of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. Georgia’s fall harvest is in full swing, which means farmers often have to drive their equipment on public roads to get from one field to another. We appreciate motorists being patient with us as we work to bring in the crops that will feed and clothe us all.”
In 2010, there were 1,249 traffic-related deaths on Georgia roads. Of those, 30 percent occurred on rural roads, compared to just 19 percent in metro Atlanta. That means our rural communities are experiencing a disproportionate number of traffic fatalities in relation to their populations. Wide open country roads and excessive speed make for a dangerous combination when met with slow-moving farm vehicle.
Here are a few tips for both motorists and farmers on how to stay safe while traveling Georgia’s country highways:
- Be watchful of vehicles behind you that may also try to pass.
- If you must enter the oncoming lane of traffic, do not pass unless you can see clearly ahead of both you and the vehicle you will pass.
- If there are any curves or hills ahead that may block your view or the view of oncoming vehicles, do not pass.
- Do not assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right or is letting you pass. Due to the size of some farm implements, the farmer must execute wide left turns. If you are unsure, check the operator’s hand signals and check the left side of the road for gates, driveways or any place a farm vehicle might turn.
- Georgia law requires you to place a slow moving vehicle reflector on any machine that ravels the road slower than 25 MPH. Always point the triangle reflector up, keep the emblem clean to maximize reflectivity and replace the emblem when it fades, normally every 2-3 years.
- Mark the edges of tractors and machines with reflective tape and reflectors. Consider installing retrofit lighting on older machinery to increase visibility.
- Turn on your light, but turn off spotlights when going onto the road.
- Avoid the highway during rush hour and bad weather. Do not drive before sunrise or after sunset.
- Consider installing mirrors on equipment to enable you to be more aware of motorists around you.
Let’s enter the 2011 harvest season with a goal of reducing crashes, injuries and deaths involving farm equipment and passenger vehicles.
For more information on the “Improving Georgia’s Yield Behind the Wheel” initiative, please visit www.gahighwaysafety.org. For more information on the Georgia Farm Bureau, visit www.gfb.org.