Spring planting season in Chester County means drivers are more likely to encounter slower moving farm equipment during their daily commutes. Given this, the Chester County Ag Council and Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau encourage drivers to slow down and leave extra time to get to their destinations over the next few weeks.
“Chester County’s agricultural landscape is a big reason many people are drawn to live and work here, but it also means an increasing number of drivers who may not know what to do when they find themselves behind a slow-moving tractor,” said Chester County Ag Council Coordinator Ann Lane.
The issue of road safety among the farming community is a growing concern, according to a recent Chester County Ag Council survey of local farmers and those who drive agricultural vehicles (including hay or milk trucks, Amish buggies, and trucks pulling livestock trailers). The two most common issues reported were unsafe passing and a lack of understanding of ag vehicle blind spots.
Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau Chapter’s Rural Road Safety Chair Darryl King has had plenty of close calls driving his tractor in recent years. “I often get passed at high speeds around bad curves, at the top of hills, when going through intersections, and while waiting to turn into field lanes off the roadway,” says King.
According to a Farm Bureau traffic study, it only takes five seconds to cover the length of a football field between a car driving 55 miles per hour and a tractor moving 15 miles per hour.
King uses safety escort vehicles as often as possible when moving his larger, more expensive equipment to increase visibility, but that’s not possible for every trip. And it’s not just drivers of slow-moving farm equipment who are having problems.
“I frequently get cut off by cars merging in front of me and have cars get into my blind spots when I’m in my 18-wheeler,” says King. This was an experience echoed by many truck drivers during a Farm Bureau meeting in March.
The week of April 16-22 is Rural Roads Safety Week in Pennsylvania, a joint initiative of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Rural Roads Safety Week is designed to educate the public and the agricultural community about safety concerns on rural roads, particularly in relation to slow-moving vehicles. Additionally, it alerts motorists across Pennsylvania to drive cautiously and to slow down when approaching large farm equipment. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the number of accidents on rural roads and ultimately save lives.
The Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau recommends the following guidance for a safer driving experience:
Don’t Rush – If you are driving in Chester County, you are likely to encounter farm equipment especially between April and November. Please allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
Look for the Orange Triangle – The orange triangle sign is displayed on vehicles designed to travel at speeds of 25 miles per hour or less, including animal-drawn vehicles. It is not simply a reflector; it is a warning to slow down.
Pass with Care – If the farmer has pulled off the road so that you may pass – or if the farmer does not pull over, but you feel you must pass – do so with caution. Never pass when curves or hills block your view of oncoming vehicles, when you are in a “No Passing Zone” or within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad grade crossing, bridge, elevated structure, or tunnel. Also, be careful that the farmer is not pulling to the right to make a wide left turn.
Remain Visible – Don’t assume the farmer knows you are driving near the vehicle. While farmers will check the review view whenever possible, they are often concentrating on keeping their equipment on the road, and avoiding oncoming traffic and low-hanging branches. Before you pass, use your horn to let the driver know where you are. Note that farmers may not be able to hear you over their equipment noise.
Yield to Wide Vehicles – Sometimes farm equipment is wider than travel lanes. If you approach wide equipment and cannot pass safely, stop. Please pull off the road, turn around, or back away so the equipment can pass you. Watch for pilot or escort cars, which help to indicate an oversized vehicle, and if you see one, pull off so the vehicle can pass you.
According to Farm Bureau, safely following a tractor for two miles at 20 miles per hour will only add an additional six minutes of travel time, approximately the same as waiting for two extra stoplights.
“A few extra minutes on the road is a small sacrifice to ensure that you and the farmer both get home safely to your families,” noted Lane.