Georgia’s harvest season is in full swing, which means there is likely to be more farm equipment on public roads as farmers bring in their fall crops. Farmers are engaged in one of the most hazardous of all occupations year round, but harvest season begins a new danger – roadway collisions involving farm equipment and passenger vehicles.
According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), there were 300 crashes involving passenger vehicles and farm equipment in Georgia last year, and there were five deaths from these accidents.
The GOHS also reports that 30 percent of the 1,249 traffic-related deaths in Georgia occurred on rural roads compared to only 19 percent in metro Atlanta.
In an effort to reduce traffic accidents involving farm equipment, Georgia Farm Bureau is teaming up with the GOHS and the Georgia Department of Agriculture to educate farmers and motorists about precautions they should follow to avoid accidents through a campaign titled “Improving Georgia’s Yield Behind the Wheel.”
“It’s often necessary for farmers to drive our equipment on public roads to get from one field to another. It’s important that both farmers and motorists follow the safety precautions the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety recommends so we can all get to our destinations safely,” said Randy Branch, Appling County Farm Bureau president.
The GOHS encourages motorists and farmers to adhere to the following tips to avoid accidents involving farm equipment and passenger vehicles.
• Be watchful of vehicles behind you that may also try to pass.
• Don’t pass unless you can see clearly ahead of both you and the vehicle you will pass.
• Don’t pass if there are any curves or hills ahead that may block your view or the view of oncoming vehicles.
• Don’t assume that farm equipment that pulls to the right side of the road is turning right or is letting you pass. Due to the large size of some farm machinery, farmers must sometimes pull to the right to 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 field entrances the farmer may be turning into.
• Georgia law requires you to place a slow moving vehicle reflector sign on any machine that travels 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 lights but turn off spotlights when traveling on roads.
• Avoid the highway during rush hour and bad weather. Don’t drive before sunrise or after sunset.
• Consider installing mirrors on equipment to enable you to be more aware of motorists around you.
• Use warning flashers to caution approaching motorists to slow down.
• Use signal lights or proper hand signals to indicate to motorists your intention to turn in advance. Equipment operators should not encourage or signal motorists when to pass but should pull over when it is safe to allow traffic to pass.
“ As a farmer, I’d like to ask motorists in our community to be patient when traveling behind farm equipment. We don’t want to slow you down, but driving our equipment on the highway is often necessary,” said Branch. “If you find yourself stuck behind farm equipment, just think of the delicious food or stylish new clothes you’ll eventually enjoy thanks to the farmer driving in front of you.”
Founded in 1937, Georgia Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general farm organization. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors. GFB also has 20 commodity advisory committees that give the organization input on issues pertinent to the major commodities grown in Georgia.