Springtime on Rural Roads

Wayne Dellinger, ANR Educator Union County

Spring planting season will soon be under way across the State of Ohio.  After challenging planting seasons in recent years, farmers will be taking advantage of every window of opportunity to get seeds in the ground.

Combine the spring planting equipment on the road and increased motor vehicle traffic because of more people transitioning from telecommuting back to work from COVID-19 and we have an increased risk of incidents on local roadways.

In the period from 2009-2018 over half of the farm fatalities in Ohio were related to tractor use (OSU Extension Ag Safety & Health, Farm Fatality and Injury Database for Ohio).  Of these tractor related fatalities, around 14% were the result of a roadway collision.  In 2020 alone, the total number of incidents between farm units (farm equipment and farm trucks) and motor vehicles in Ohio was 380 (Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio Traffic Crash Facts).  Of these 380 incidents, 3 resulted in fatalities and 99 resulted in injuries.  While this total is down significantly from 2019 when there were 462 crashes, this could be attributed to less motor vehicles on the road because of businesses being temporarily shut down and telecommuting arrangements.  

Distracted driving is a continued concern on local roadways.  It is important to remember closure time when coming up behind slow moving vehicles.  In less than 7 seconds, a motor vehicle traveling 55 mph will close 400 feet behind a tractor traveling 15 mph.

Being aware and anticipating farm equipment actions on the roadway will help decrease the risk of collisions.  When approaching from the rear, watch for signals from the operator whether it be a yellow turn signal or hand signal.  With larger equipment, often it is difficult for the operator to see traffic coming from behind.  Watch for upcoming farm and field drives where the operator may be turning before attempting to pass.  If you are preparing to meet a piece of equipment, watch for guardrails, mailboxes, and road signs that may prevent the operator from getting over far enough to meet safely.

Farm equipment operators can do their part by ensuring their safety lighting and marking equipment are clean and functional.  Using escort vehicles in both the front and rear may increase visibility and keep the operator in communication of upcoming hazards or situations while moving from farm to farm.  Finally, when possible, attempt to move equipment at off-peak motor vehicle travel times.

Taking a drive in the country has seemed to be one of the few enjoyable and acceptable activities we can do for around a year now.  We need to enjoy the view, watch out for farm equipment, and stay safe.

Wayne Dellinger, ANR Educator Union County, can be reached at 937-644-8117 or dellinger.6@osu.edu. This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team. https://agsafety.osu.edu/.