In our rural area, the sight of a tractor towing wagons or a combine traveling the roadways is not uncommon. But for many motorists, coming upon a large combine, or tractor and tillage equipment can be very dangerous. With the 2012 harvest getting underway, the Iowa Department of Transportation is urging motorists and farm vehicle operators to exercise caution during the movement of slow-moving equipment on Iowa's roadways.
The need for driver awareness of farm equipment is real. In 2011, a total of 198 crashes on Iowa's roadways involved vehicles and farm equipment. Out of those 198 accidents, there were seven fatalities, 15 accidents with major injuries, 46 accidents with minor injuries and 55 accidents in which possible injuries were reported. And, 119 accidents out of the 198 resulted in damage to property, usually the vehicles colliding with farm equipment.
The basic problem, according to law enforcement authorities, is that motorists often misjudge the speed that farm equipment is traveling, and often run-up on the equpment faster than the driver expects, resulting in collisions.
Another major accident cause is farm implements that attempt to turn left off roadways into farm field driveways and vehicles attempt to pass the implement as it turns.
In an attempt to reduce the number of harvest time traffic accidents, the Iowa Department of Transportaion is offering several safety tips to motorists.
* Give your full attention to the driving task and watch for slow-moving vehicles. Do not text and drive.
* Put additional space between your vehicle and those ahead. At this time of the year, the sun can be blinding to drivers during sunrise and sunset. The added space helps you safe-ly maneuver if there is a sudden stop, turn or a slow-moving vehicle ahead.
* The shoulder may not be able to support a heavy farm vehicle.
* Slow down as soon as you see the triangular-shaped, red and fluorescent orange slow-moving vehicle emblem.
The DOT?offers tips for farmers and agricultural equipment operators to do their part in reducing accidents.
* Make your intentions known when you are turning by using signal lights or the appropriate hand signal in advance of the turn.
* Drive slow-moving vehicles in the right-hand lane as close to the edge of the roadway as safely possible. Traveling partially on the shoulder may cause motorists to risk passing in a dangerous situation.
* Avoid encouraging or signaling motorists to pass. Pull over where it is safe, and let the traffic go by.
Another area of concern at harvest time remains railroad crossings. Countless collisions occur every year when wagons or implements are struck by trains in crossings. Other collisions occur when semi-trailers or wagons get trapped on rail crossings by other traffic, or the operators of the equipment misjudge the speed of approaching trains.
According to the DOT, the best rule of thumb is to always yield to trains. Also, the DOT?recommends farmers only cross highway-rail grade crossings only if the farmer is sure they can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, trains are three feet wider than the width of the rails on both sides.
Staying alert is still the best way to avoid harvest crashes.