By KIP TOM
LEESBURG — With the cooler weather of fall comes one of the busiest and most exciting times of the year for farmers — harvest season. As farmers head to the fields to harvest, farm-vehicle traffic increases on local roads and highways. Local farmers encourage all drivers to exercise caution when approaching tractors, combine and farm implements to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
Kip Tom, Tom Farms, Leesburg, said farmers and other drivers must work together to keep rural roads safe.
“Harvest season is certainly a hectic time for any farmer but our number one priority will always be safety,” he said. “When operating a farm implement on the road, we’re always extremely alert and aware of others on the road. However, it’s important that other drivers take caution and do their part as well to keep everyone on the road safe.”
More than 157 accidents involving farm equipment occurred in Indiana in 2010. Tom Farms hopes alerting drivers of the increase in farm-vehicle traffic will reduce that number this year.
Tom Farms has a couple of tips to keep in mind this spring, including:
- Start slowly applying your brakes early. It takes five seconds for a vehicle traveling 55 miles per hour to close a 100-yard gap with a tractor moving only 15 miles per hour.
- A good rule of thumb when following farm equipment is to stay back at least 50 feet.
- Don’t assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road will turn right or let the vehicle pass. Equipment can be very large and when turning left may have to swing right to make the turn. Look for the operator’s hand signals and check the left side of the road for gates, driveways or other places a farm vehicle might make a left turn.
- Speak with young drivers about safety, too. “Especially if they are new to the road,” Tom said. “Some drivers may not know proper procedure when approaching a farm vehicle.”
Vehicle collisions most commonly occur between 4-8 p.m. This four-hour stretch often means increased activity on the road, as many make their way home from work, run errands, attend community activities and shuttle children home from school and extracurricular activities.
“If farmers and drivers work together and safely share the road, we can reduce accidents and ensure that everyone gets a chance to enjoy the cooler days ahead,” Tom said.