The real question isn’t why accidents happen occasionally involving farm equipment. It’s why aren’t there more accidents involving nonfarm motorists who use rural roads and farmers moving equipment?
The challenges that equate to potential dangers are certainly there. Hats off to both farmers and motorists for doing what they can to share the roads safely so everyone makes it home.
Look at the photo. I shot it through my windshield after stopping for a second as I followed a tractor and planter down a rural road. Here’s a closer look at the dangers in this scene that could’ve caused problems if someone hadn’t been paying attention. Fortunately, everyone was attentive, the tractor got to the field and planted corn, and the motorists made it to their destinations, too.
• Foggy day? If you think the view from the car seat is a bit hazy, you’re right. No, there wasn’t fog — no temperature inversion that day. It was overcast and threatening rain. But that isn’t why the picture is hazy.
The windshield is dirty! I drive in rural areas and hadn’t taken time to wash my windshield. Until I looked at the photo later, I didn’t realize how my vision was affected by the dirty windshield. Yes, I have a responsibility to keep it clean for good vision. I cleaned the windshield.
• Wide load. The farmer is hugging the right side of the road, but even in transport position, the planter is wide for this narrow country road. He had no choice — it was the only route to his field.
• Curves ahead. Note the road sign. The road is about to do some zigs and zags. Even with a dirty windshield, I knew to prepare for curves ahead.
• Road condition. The Legislature provided money for road projects none too soon. Uneven pavement and budding potholes can add to potential issues. Will the tractor driver edge one way or the other to avoid rough road? There’s no way to know.
• Narrow shoulders. Telephone or utility poles are very close to the road. Today, many utilities install poles farther back, but these poles near the road would have formed a barrier if there had been an incident and someone needed to move off the road in a hurry.
• Another vehicle ahead. Notice the pickup at the crossroad. Will he wait or try to jump in front of the tractor so he won’t have to follow him? He waited. But it’s imperative to be aware of where other motorists are and to anticipate how they might react.
• Vehicle markings. There’s a plus and room for improvement at the same time in this photo. The outside lights on the implement are flashing, as they should be. That let me know where the outside of the planter was in case I decided to pass. Many rural roads aren’t marked with no passing zones. But trying to pass a wide planter with the operator’s view blocked with curves ahead and a pickup at the intersection? No thanks. I wasn’t in that big a hurry.
The farmer could make his rig more visible by replacing the slow-moving vehicle emblem on back of the towed fertilizer trailer. It’s peeling and fading. Everyone needs to do their part.
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