2 months, 3 weeks ago by Jim Dewey
As harvest begins, be careful on the rural roads
This week is Farm Safety Week. Eric Van Asdale, Senior Loss Control Representative for Country Financial said it is no coincidence that farm safety week corresponds with the beginning of harvest season.
"It's when the majority of accidents with farm equipment happen on the road because of all the combines, semis, tractors...all that's gonna be on the road."
Van Asdale said it's also when we see a lot of fatigue among farmers, especially this year he said, "We're really worried with the late harvest, people are gonna be in a hurry to get those crops out of the field, so we're really worried about fatigue."
Van Asdale said there is some good news to report - although he calls it bittersweet. Country Financial has been collecting data related to farm fatalities for 35 years and there were 12 fatalities among farmers in Illinois last year. He says "12 is still way too many, but that's an all time low."
This comes as there are fewer but larger farms. But Van Asdale said there is also a growing number of small farms with minimal resources at the same time. Many of those farmers are trying to make do with older equipment, "maybe equipment that isn't as safe, doesn't have the retro-fit safety equipment."
Tractor rollovers and highway crashes are the leading causes loss in rural America. Van Asdale reminds farmers "we're still out there reminding people, 'Don't start your tractors from the ground so they don't run over you; watch when you're mowing ditches, working on inclines not to roll over and if you have an old tractor without a roll-over protection structure, the ROPS Device, go get one."
When it comes to roadway safety, the rural motorist bears a large portion of the responsibility for their own safety, Van Asdale said. All four of the farm related fatalities that occurred on the highways last year were the motorists.
Drivers need to realize Van Asdale said, that in a crash with a farm implement or tractor, they will lose. He said a lot of rural motorists don't realize how slow big farm equipment moves. "As soon as they see an SMV (slow moving vehicle) sign, a flashing light, some kind of indication of a tractor ahead, they ought to slow down," he said. Van Asdale notes that if you are traveling 55 miles an hour plus on a country road, you will come up on that tractor faster than you realize.
And he warns drivers to only pass when it's safe. He said "A farmer will pull over to indicate that it's safe to pass and never pass at an intersection.
Van Asdale said many of the crashes occur when a farmer stops to turn left into a field and a vehicle tries to pass.