Farm Progress

Cellphones and rural roadways cause safety risks for farmers and drivers.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

August 23, 2017

2 Min Read
PUT IT DOWN: Texting while driving makes you 23 times more likely to crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.Jared Fogue, MU Plant Sciences

Scrolling one more time on Facebook. Retweeting one more corn harvest photo. Taking one more combine selfie for Instagram. All it takes is one more look away from the road — whether in the truck, tractor, combine or car — to end up in an accident on Missouri's rural roads this harvest season.

For years, texting and driving have been in the spotlight. In 46 states and the District of Columbia, texting while driving is banned. In Missouri, it is banned only for those under the age of 21.

But there is a growing number of individuals using their phones for more than texting. They use cellphones to connect with others via social media. And some drivers will not put them down.

Fifteen states have a hand-held ban requiring drivers to use their phones with a hands-free device. Missouri is not one of those states. So, here is the predicament — drivers of any age can scroll through social media while driving. The result is distracted driving, which leads to accidents.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, there were close to 2,500 accidents that involved cellphone use last year. Of those, 785 resulted in injury while 13 ended in death. That is an increase over 2015.

This fall, it is time to take precautions on rural roads. It is the time of year when farmers move large equipment from one field to another during harvest. With these thousands of pounds of machinery on the roadways, making wide turns and reducing visibility, University of Missouri Extension safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch says drivers of both machinery and vehicles should remain alert.

Shortened daylight hours and pending inclement weather force farmers and seasonal farmworkers to work long hours during harvest. Fatigue and stress reduce concentration and increase response time, Funkenbusch says.

Add distracted drivers and you have a recipe for disaster, she says. Here are a few tips Funkenbusch offers to keep drivers and farmers safe this harvest season.

• Keep your hands on the steering wheel of your car, combine or grain truck at all times.

• Be on the lookout for farm machinery that may turn unexpectedly onto public roads from fields or driveways.

• Keep a safe distance.

• Allow extra travel time during harvest.

• Watch for roadside obstacles such as mailboxes, bridges or road signs that may cause the machinery operator to move to the center of the road.

• Allow extra time and room to pass farm equipment.

• Obey traffic rules, share the road and be courteous.

Remind your friends, neighbors, young drivers and fellow farmers that the post, tweet and selfie can wait.


About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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