By Sharry Nielsen
It’s already starting. Farmers are hauling semi loads of grain. Ranchers are moving cattle and calves. Machinery is going to dealers for final checks before harvest begins. Farm machinery has hit the road – and it is time for everyone sharing the road to step up for safety!
Although urban areas in Nebraska account for twice as many crashes as rural areas do, the fatality rate on rural roads is 3 times that of their urban counterparts. The reasons are varied, but the responsibility belongs to all of us.
What can you do? Begin by taking the situation seriously. Rural roads are danger zones, and no place for complacency when driving.
If you are a machinery operator, be sure you and your machinery are as safe as possible.
- Check for proper lighting, including turn signals, headlights, flashing ambers and taillights.
- Be sure SMV signs and reflective markers are bright and CLEAN.
- Equip all tractors with rollover protective structures (ROPS).
- Wear seat belts, and instruct all operators to do so as well.
- Train novice drivers in safe operation of farm machinery, and supervise before turning them out on their own.
- Make pre-op checks a habit, not an afterthought. Brakes, steering, hitches, and other machine parts must be in good working order.
- Insist on no extra riders on farm equipment.
If you are sharing the road with farm machinery operators, take responsibility for and teach youth to drive defensively and safely.
- Always wear your seatbelt and insist that all passengers do the same.
- Follow speed limits on rural roads; you may have only 3-5 seconds to react once you come upon a tractor moving at 20 mph.
- Be patient when following a slow moving vehicle, watching for driveways where they may turn into unexpectedly.
- Be aware of road conditions, including soft shoulders, narrow bridges, loose gravel and blind intersections.
- NEVER allow passengers to ride in the cargo area of a pick-up.
- Pull off the road to use cell phones or to text.
The large size, extreme weight, and power of large machinery magnify the destruction that can take place if a collision occurs. Whether you are a machinery operator or a motor vehicle driver, be a role model of safety for your family and others. Make rural roads a safe place to travel.