We all need to share the roads (Editorial)

(Sept. 9, 2014) At 5:30 a.m. last July 18, a Hartly, Del., farmer, on a country road, was moving his soybean planter to another field.
The 22-year-old driver of an approaching car failed to see the John Deere and the farm equipment approaching and plowed into the left side of the planter. The impact of the crash drove the front of the car under the planter and thrust a wheel through the driver’s side window, pinning the driver in the seat.
Now it’s harvest time and the equipment doesn’t get any smaller. Farmers will be moving combines down country roads where, by the way they have a perfect right to be, and want to extend a hand to the driving public to agree to “share the road.”
That’s the name of a new project launched by the Delaware Soybean Board, but its cautions certainly apply in its neighboring states in the Mid-Atlantic.
“Most farmers try to schedule the movement of combines and other large, slow-moving pieces of equipment for times when few other people are on the road,” says Travis Hastings, chairman of the Delaware Soybean Board, who farms in Laurel, Del. “However, sometimes we just can’t avoid it and have to share the road.”
The Delaware Soybean Board is reminding its farmers that machinery and equipment that travels at 25 miles per hour or slower should display a “slow moving vehicle” emblem on the rear when traveling on public roads.
Motorists should slow down as soon as they see the triangular orange sign with the red, reflective border.
That’s because a car traveling 55 mph requires roughly 224 feet to stop on dry pavement, assuming average reaction time.
A car traveling 55 mph can close a 300-foot gap — the length of a football field — between it and a tractor moving at 15 mph in about five seconds.
“If you do not begin to slow as soon as you see a farm vehicle or equipment, you might not have time to avoid a collision,” Hastings says. “When we see you, if possible, we try to pull off the road to allow you to pass. But our equipment is heavy, so it’s not always possible to pull over on a soft shoulder.”
According to a 2003 study cited by the National Agricultural Safety Database, two out of every 100 crashes involving tractors, which may or may not be towing other farm equipment, and one out of every 100 crashes involving other farm equipment leads to a traffic death.
Here are things farmers can do to make their road trips safer:
• Plan the travel to avoid high traffic times, busy roads, bad weather and before daylight or after dark;
• Use visible reflective slow moving vehicle emblem lights;
• Watch out for passing vehicles when making left turns, especially when turning into fields. (Motorists may see a farmer swing right to make a wide left turn and assume that they are pulling over for the motorist to pass);
• Always use hand or turn signals;
• Install wide mirrors so you can see traffic that is following you;
• Use reflective marking tape and reflectors on equipment edges;
• Turn on farm equipment lights;
• When road and shoulder conditions are safe, pull over temporarily to allow traffic to pass;
• Minimize equipment width and haul equipment when practical;
• Use an escort ahead of or behind you, when practical; and
• Be aware of your own drowsiness after long hours of work and rest when needed to stay sharp.
So what advice do the farmers have for the driving public? Hastings has this thought: “A little bit of patience goes a long way in making sure everyone, and their vehicles, share the road safely.”