Fatal accidents involving farm equipment and motor vehicles on rural roads continue to increase throughout the U.S. Indiana is the 10th largest farming state, making these collisions common in rural areas. Crops stand as tall as 12 feet high during the growing season and act as a wall that blocks the vision of drivers, leading to many accidents.
The late Ronnie Mohr, a Hancock County, Ind., farmer, recognized this issue and worked to reduce the number of farm equipment-motor vehicle collisions. In 2017, Mohr’s brother was involved in a traumatic accident due to his view being obstructed by tall corn. Joe Mohr was driving a crop sprayer when he approached an intersection and couldn't see past the crops. As he was inching up to see the road, the sprayer came in contact with an oncoming truck of teenage boys, leaving one dead and two injured. County officials determined the accident was caused by tall crops obstructing the view of the road.
The day before the accident, Ronnie Mohr had written a letter to a reporter asking for a story to remind farmers to trim their crops back off the road at intersections. He continued to bring awareness to this issue and educate others to prevent other families from experiencing what his family went through.
Mohr worked with members of the Indiana Legislature and Indiana Farm Bureau to create legislation that would make the farmer liable and responsible for accidents that are caused by poor road visibility. However, the idea did not go through.
Each year, from mid-July through October, there is a higher risk of farm traffic accidents. According to statistics reported by the National Safety Council, the leading cause of death within the agriculture industry is tractor overturns, but a high number of injuries and fatalities also occur from farm equipment and motor vehicle collisions on roads and highways.
Help other victims
Melissa Huff, president and CEO of Fallen Young Farmer Inc., is also working to promote farm safety and awareness to decrease the number of farm-related fatalities. In 1998, Huff’s life was turned upside down when her husband was involved in a farming accident. He was pulling a hay wagon, and while turning off a highway, a car made an illegal pass, causing an accident that ended his life.
Huff continued raising her three daughters in Brownstown, Ind., as a single parent and decided to still pursue her passion for agriculture. She wanted to give back and form a community to help other young farm families who have faced similar tragedies, which is when she started the Fallen Young Farmer Inc. Foundation in 2018.
Fallen Young Farmer Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation established to support farming families who have experienced a fatal tragedy. The foundation partners with agricultural advocacy groups and agribusiness leaders to promote agriculture, farm safety and awareness.
“Our initial work and events include fundraising events and speaking engagements to garner awareness for our cause,” Huff says. “It’s our goal to establish a community of partners to aid and assist those in need, as well as establishing a college scholarship fund to help children of young farm families who have lost a parent.”
The foundation is working to provide education, awareness and resources that promote farm safety. “Most accidents happen when people are not focused or paying attention,” Huff says. “Be patient and considerate when you see farm equipment on the roads. Pay attention and follow traffic rules.”
Farm Bureau did place caution signs throughout Hancock County to warn drivers to watch out for farm equipment on the road. The signs are intended to help drivers be more alert to farm equipment at poor-visibility intersections. Many other county Farm Bureau groups do the same thing.
For more education and assistance, follow Fallen Young Farmer Inc. on Facebook, or visit the foundation’s website, fallenyoungfarmer.org.
Burkhart is a senior in agricultural communication at Purdue University. This article is dedicated to Ronnie Mohr, who died on Dec. 14. Ronnie and Sarah Mohr were named Master Farmers in 2019 by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture.