Bureau urges drivers remain patient with farmers, vehicles

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

With the crop season continuing through fall, drivers are likely to find themselves sharing the roads with slow-moving farm vehicles and equipment for several more weeks.

And all too often, that’s a mix that can spell disaster.

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&uot;The biggest reason for accidents is driver impatience,&uot; said Bruce Stone, safety manager of the Virginia Farm Bureau. &uot;A motorist will get behind a tractor and try to pass it before it’s safe to do so.&uot;

According to the National Safety Council, approximately 15,000 farm vehicles are involved in highway accidents annually. Studies of accidents between slow-moving farm vehicles and other vehicles show that nearly 90 percent occur on dry roads during daylight hours; 66 percent of those are rear-end-collisions, according to council data.

It is important for drivers to slow down when they recognize a slow-moving vehicle, Stone said. With average reaction time and braking, a car traveling 55 mph requires about 224 feet to stop on dry pavement, he said. Studies indicate that the safe stopping distance increases to about 302 feet when the car is traveling at 65 miles per hour, he said.

&uot;Many times it’s the speed of the automobiles versus the speed of the tractor,&uot; Stone said. &uot;The speed of the car doesn’t give the motorist adequate time to stop before hitting the rear of the farm equipment.&uot;

Stone advises motorists to use their surroundings as clues that slow-moving farm equipment might be on the road with them.

&uot;If you’re on a rural road with crop fields on both sides, anticipate farm equipment,&uot; he said. &uot;If you’re going to pass the equipment, do it with caution. It’s against the law to pass on a solid line.

&uot;Be patient…The equipment won’t be on the road for long.&uot;

State law requires farm equipment traveling at 25 mph or slower to carry a red-and-orange triangular slow-moving vehicle emblem to alert other drivers, he added.

Suffolk farmer Bobby Rountree said he advises employees operating farm equipment on the highway to keep their lights on and frequently pull onto the side of the road to allow other vehicles to pass.

&uot;There are a few operators who will actually get on the road and they just don’t pull over,&uot; Rountree said. &uot;They say the heck with it and they just keep holding up a long line of traffic.

&uot;That’s what makes people frustrated and that’s when accidents occur,&uot; he continued. &uot;I’m just glad that our farms are off the major roadways. I don’t think I could handle the real traffic at rush hour.&uot;

Roger Williams, a dairy farm operator

I’ve been on both sides of the wheel and as a farmer, we do try to keep lights and flashers on so that people will be aware,&uot; said Williams. &uot;We also use the slow moving decals. The main thing is when drivers see a farmer coming down the road, slow down because you may not realize just how wide the equipment is. I had a car hit me head-on one night, and I was actually hugging the ditch before he hit me. Fortunately, for both of us, there were no injuries. Those things can happen before you realize it.&uot;

Williams said his best advice is to slow down for the short time that farm equipment is ahead of your vehicle.

&uot;We won’t be in the way very long and if you’d use just a bit of patience, everyone will be safe,&uot; said Williams. &uot;A note to the farmers; give drivers a break and pull over and let them pass as soon as possible. People get frustrated and then accidents happen.&uot;