Whenever I would leave for college many years ago, my grandfather would always say 'watch out for the other fella' on the road. I didn't always sink in to a know-it-all college kid, but it makes sense now. It's become known as defensive driving- not only drive safely yourself but anticipate what the other driver may do, and be ready o react just in case.
With tractors, planers and fertilizer buggies on the road for the next several weeks, whenever he weather cooperates, thinking about 'the other guy' makes sense. The other guy might be a urban motorist, or even a high school student with a new license. At any rate, they may not be used to dealing with farm equipment moving at a slow pace and taking up more than half the roadway.
An effort that started in Shelby County last year o help remind motorists during busy seasons to watch for slow moving farm equipment has mushroomed to other areas. The Shelby County Ag Promotion Committee sponsored a billboard a year ago with a message they produced themselves, advising motorists to watch for slow moving vehicles a harvest. Piggybacking on their effort, Johnson County Leadership, a local raining program in Johnson County, and he Johnson County Farm Bureau, plus Pioneer Hi-Bred International, partnered to erect two similar billboards in key spots on heavily traveled highways this spring. Unlike the Shelby County message, which first appeared in the fall, the Johnson County billboards are directed toward people traveling the roads in the spring during harvest.
"Our message is simple- we need to all share the road," says Danny Greene, a Leadership Johnson County ag committee member who helped spearhead the billboard campaign.
After learning about what Shelby County did and what Johnson County was doing through an article here on www.indianaprairiefarmer.com, Kerry 'Goose' Graves decided to attempt to get the same thing accomplished in Greene County in southwest Indiana. He was partly driven by the memory of an older, local farmer killed in an accident while driving his tractor home after disking a field for wheat last fall.
Working with local groups inside the county, Graves was able to raise the money for the billboard. He's convinced that not only highly populated areas need a reminder this time of year. Even in more typically rural areas, such as Greene County, a sizable portion of the population is no longer directly connected to production agriculture. As such, they may be unfamiliar with how to deal with the potential hazards of slow-moving, wide farm equipment just as much so as someone who lives in the shadow of Indianapolis, where virtually no one is familiar with agriculture.
Billboards won't save lives, but it's a start, organizers believe. The message they convey could help someone avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Who knows, you might be the one spared from such a situation because motorists in your area saw the message and took head to what it said.
Road safety is not just for urbanites, however, organizers say, Farmers also have a responsibility to use common sense when traveling on roadways. That includes pulling over whenever it's practical and a string of cars are following behind on a busy highway.