A sure sign of spring is more tractors, sprayers and fertilizer rigs on the roadways, both county roads and state highways. While highway crashes are still not nearly the leading cause of farm fatalities in Indiana, they receive publicity when they occur. An older farmer was killed in a tractor accident near dusk in Greene County last fall.
A few years ago Booby Hysong, Lebanon, was killed in a highway crash that forms the message of a CD-video sponsored by various groups, including Farm Bureau and Purdue University's Ag Engineering Department. Bill Field, Purdue farm safety specialist, was instrumental in seeing that the 11-minute video was produced. He appears in the film, spreading the message that farmers and motorists must learn to share the road together to avoid incidents, especially during busy seasons of the year.
Hysong's incident inspired a safety magnet and sticker campaign carried out by Indiana Farm Bureau a couple years ago. In that fatal crash Hysong was pulling a grain auger down the road. His brother, Mike, followed behind in his pickup, acting as an escort vehicle. Things went awry when Hysong swung out and then came back left to turn into the farm driveway. A truck following the pickup shot around to pass, not knowing he was turning left. The truck hit the tractor, breaking the axle in half. A second truck wound up shooting between the auger and the pickup truck. Mike's wife appears in the video on behalf of the Hysong family, telling the story and sharing their feelings about the crash.
One of her lines from the video is haunting. "If this saves just one life," she ntoes," then it will have been worth it."
An Indiana state trooper appearing in the video notes that motorists unfamiliar with farm equipment don't realize how slow tractors or other farm vehicles travel on the roadway, nor how fast their own car or truck can reach the farm implement. It's a matter of split seconds that can determine whether an accident occurs or is avoided. Staying alert and being aware that there could be obstacles in the roadway moving more slowly, especially at this time of year, is a key to avoiding tragedy, he notes.
Meanwhile, farmers also have a responsibility, safety specialists advise. The country song 'International Harvester' aside, 'hogging' the road with a wide, slow-moving tractor or combine and building up traffic behind is not a wise practice, they notes. Field advises being aware of safe places to pull over along your route, and doing so if cars have backed up behind you.
It's just a matter of learning to share the road with each other, Field repeats. That can make for a happy ending for everyone on their way to one destination or another, whether it's to the field or home for the evening.