Georgia’s highest ranking agriculture official and lead highway safety official want to make sure motorists and farmers are able to share the road safely as the stewards of Georgia’s largest economic driver begin readying for the spring planting season.
Gary W. Black, Commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Agriculture, and Harris Blackwood, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, appeared together at Branch Farm Supply in Baxley Thursday in an awareness effort meant to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities that occur when motor vehicles collide with farm equipment. The event was hosted by Appling County Young Farmers and was held at Branch Farm Supply on March 7.
During early spring, motorists on Georgia’s rural roads are more likely to encounter farm equipment in their daily commutes. All too often, this combination of fast moving motor vehicles and slow moving farm equipment on Georgia roads has ended in tragedy. Last year, Georgia law enforcement officials reported 427 crashes involving farm equipment. Those crashes limited largely to rural roads, resulted in 185 injuries and six deaths. For the second year in a row, the data from 2012 shows a slight increase in farm-equipment involved crashes and fatalities. In 2011, law enforcement reported 401 of these crashes, resulting in five fatalities.
This increase comes as overall fatalities on Georgia’s roads declined for the sixth consecutive year and as Georgia growers reported historically high yields for peanuts and other crops.
“While we have a lot to be proud of when it comes to reducing the number of injuries and fatalities on Georgia’s roads, these numbers, showing an increase in crashes involving those who foster our greatest economic assets, are disconcerting,” Blackwood said. “We must do better.”
Blackwood urged motorists to limit distractions and avoid the temptation to speed on open rural roads. Rural roadways have proved to be more fatal to Georgians than even metropolitan Atlanta highways in the past. Deadly crashes in rural areas are frequently attributed to speed.
Vehicles approaching farm equipment at a speed of 55 MPH can travel the length of a football field within seconds. Speeds above 55 MPH further reduce a driver’s ability to react to slow-moving farm equipment. For farmers traveling the roads in slow-moving equipment, maximizing a machine’s visibility is one of the most important defenses against a crash with a motor vehicle. Georgia law requires operators of slow-moving vehicles to place a triangle shaped reflector on any machine that travels on a road slower than 25 miles per hour.
As our farmers are working to plant this year’s crop, we want to remind Georgians of farmers increased presence on the roadways,” Black said. “While traveling we urge you to be mindful of tractors and other farm equipment sharing the same roadways and to take extra precaution.”
Georgians can improve their yield behind the wheel by following a few simple tips traveling Georgia’s rural roadways:
*When passing a farm vehicle, do not enter an oncoming lane of traffic unless you can see clearly ahead of the vehicle you will 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 operators hand signals and check the left side of the road for gates, driveways or any place a farm vehicle might turn.
* Georgia law requires operators of slow moving vehicles to place a reflector on any machine that travels the road slower than 25 MPH. Always point the triangle reflector upwards, 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 into 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.