Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

September 15, 2013

Be watchful at harvest

Hoosier farmers harvested 5.75 million acres of corn and 5.29 million acres of soybeans in 2011, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reports.

That’s a lot of grain. And it requires a lot of equipment to take it out of the ground.

Harvesting of tomatoes already has begun. Perhaps you’ve seen truckfuls on local roads. Motorists can expect increased traffic of farm machinery on county roads within the coming weeks. They should watch for heavy equipment entering and exiting farm fields.

“Farmers are on the roads because they are trying to get to their place of work, just as motorists are trying to get to their place of employment,” Carolyn Hegel said for the Indiana Farm Bureau just before planting began in 2006. “The days of a farm family just working on their homestead acres are long gone. Some farmers must travel many miles to get to their fields.”

The Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program reported 16.7 percent of work-related fatalities among farmers were a result of traffic accidents in 2007. And one of the main causes of those fatalities is motorists not accounting for slow-moving farm machinery.

If a car traveling 55 mph comes upon a tractor moving at 15 mph, the Farm Bureau says, it would take just five seconds to close a 100-yard gap.

“When motorists see a slow-moving vehicle sign or flashing lights, they need to slow down,” Hegel said. “Farm machinery can be very wide. Motorists should follow behind until there is a safe place to pass.”

Today kicks off Farm Safety Week. Exercising courtesy and common sense are the best ways to travel safely during harvest season, the Farm Bureau says.

• Watch for slow-moving vehicles.

• Be patient, and don’t assume a farmer can move aside to let you pass. The shoulders along county roads might not be able to support a heavy tractor.

• And slow down as soon as you see the triangular, red-and-orange slow-moving vehicle emblem.

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