A single accident involving farm equipment could be devastating to both the farmer and the other driver, according to farmer and Kent County Farm Bureau President Jim Minner.
“It only takes seconds to have a deadly accident,” he said. “When you see the equipment on the road, reduce your speed because you can’t determine what they’re going to do right away. Slow down and assess what’s around you. Use very good judgment about what’s going on around you.”
Minner joined Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Don Clifton, Staples Insurance Commercial Sales and Service Associate Scott Allen and Matt Higgins, an environmental scientist with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control’s Emergency Response Team, in presenting about farm equipment and road safety during Delaware Ag Week Tuesday, Jan. 9 at the Delaware State Fairgrounds.
The presentation was also organized in part by Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety and the Delaware Association of Chiefs of Police. The group covered tips and important topics related to road safety when it comes to larger farm equipment.
“I had a bad experience while on the road once, too. Back before I had cab tractors, I was driving just the tractor itself with no equipment behind it. It was in the Norman G Wilder Wildlife area, Firetower road in Canterbury Rd., back in the S-curves. I saw a driver texting that was drifting. When he got about 300 feet away, I started standing up in the tractor, getting ready to jump out. When he was about 50 feet away, I was about ready to bail off because he was fully in my lane headed straight for me. My brain was saying ‘impact imminent.’ I was getting ready to just jump into the ditch and let him just crash into it. It’s amazing how fast you can assess things when you get in that situation,” Minner recalled. “I was ready to jump when he saw me and swerved. He just about got himself killed because he was just being careless, wreckless.”
Minner, whose career before farming was with the Department of Transportation, spoke of his concerns regarding safety on the roads during the farm equipment and road safety presentation at Ag Week, emphasizing the need for farmers to go above and beyond minimum safety requirements to keep themselves, their operations and the general public safe.
“The lighting was the big thing – the availability of the lighting that you can use, brightness, efficacy. . . it’s going to get somebody’s attention and it does. It works,” he explained, adding that although the cost of additional lighting for farm equipment can be expensive, the cost of an accident could be more, or worse.
Allen said these kinds of accidents are preventable when the farmer and the public take the time to keep safety in mind.
“As an agent, I want to make sure our farmers are doing the best they can to protect themselves, employees and the community. A farm vehicle accident can be devastating, both physically and financially. Insurance rates are rising in general, without unnecessary claims. One mistake can affect you financially for years,” he said. “Accidents with farm equipment are rarely minute. The losses can be catastrophic to lives and equipment. The public is putting their lives in jeopardy when they do not drive cautiously on rural roads.”
The increased speed, combined with a lack of patience and road safety awareness in all parties involved, is when accidents tend to get worse, the group explained during the presentation.
Some things may help eliminate potential accidents like hazard lighting on farm equipment and the use of lead and trailing vehicles when transporting farm equipment on public roads. Delaware does require hazard lighting by law, including height requirements, magnetic lights and strobe patterns for visibility. The group of presenters emphasized that going “overboard” with the warning lights and other safety measures is not a bad thing.
The general public can also keep safety in mind by reducing speeds on rural roads, being more mindful of their fellow drivers and being aware of their surroundings.
“We are in an environment right now where insurance companies are actively dropping people from coverage more frequently. An unnecessary accident due to aggression, unnecessary speed, carelessness or distraction (texting), can mean your rates will go up significantly, or you lose your coverage, or worse,” Allen said.
DEFB plans on presenting this workshop again with more information during the organization’s annual Safety Conference, which is scheduled for Wednesday, March 20 at Loblolly Acres. For more information, visit www.defb.org.