Deadliest rural road collisions are with tractors

— Photo from The New York Center for Agricultural Health and Medicine

A bright orange triangle-shaped Slow Moving Vehicle emblem, by law, must be mounted on any machinery that travels less than 25 miles per hour on public roads. A Speed Identification Symbol, in a white circle, is newly required by state law for equipment that moves between 25 and 40 miles per hour.

Roadway crashes involving agricultural vehicles were found to be five times more fatal than that of non-ag crashes, according to a recent study published by the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health.

Accidents involving tractors and other ag-related equipment on rural roads occurred most often on straightaways with a grade, according to the data analyzed. Erika Scott, the center’s deputy director, speculates that this is due to motorists attempting to pass slower-moving tractors or agricultural machinery.

Though only 19 out of every 100 Americans live in rural areas, more than half of fatal roadway accidents take place in rural areas, according to the United States Department of Transportation.

For the study, electronic records from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle accident reports for 2010-2012 were analyzed. Agricultural cases were identified using variables for the vehicle body type and vehicle registration.

During the three-year time frame analyzed, researchers identified 203 agriculture-related accidents involving 381 vehicles and 482 people. They found that incidents involving farm vehicles or equipment tended to be more severe than non-ag crashes in terms of the number of vehicles involved, the extent of the injuries, and the number of resulting deaths.

Of the agriculture-related incidents, the most common event was a collision with another vehicle (80.8 percent). The second most common was a collision with a fixed object such as a ditch or embankment (10.3 percent), followed by an overturn/non-collision event (3.4 percent). Poor weather conditions were rarely a factor in these events.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data have shown that agriculture, forestry, and fishing as an occupational group has the third highest rate of work-related roadway crashes.

The Columbia University Center for Injury Science and Prevention provided funding for the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health study of agricultural roadway crashes. Study results were published recently in the Journal of Agromedicine.

The center has worked with the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee on issues surrounding slow-moving vehicle use. These initiatives have brought together farmers, safety professionals, and emergency services to raise awareness of slow-moving vehicles on the roadway.

Signs

State law requires signs for safety’s sake.

A bright orange triangle-shaped Slow Moving Vehicle emblem, by law, must be mounted on any machinery that travels less than 25 miles per hour on public roads.

A Speed Identification Symbol is newly required by state law for equipment that moves between 25 and 40 miles per hour.

Examples of slow-moving vehicles that these regulations apply to include tractors, self-propelled agricultural equipment, implements of husbandry, road construction and maintenance machinery, and animal-powered vehicles.

Safety tips

The New York Center for Agricultural Health and Medicine offers this advice for sharing roads with farm equipment. Motorists should:

— Slow down. The faster you drive, the longer the stopping distance. When speed doubles from 30 mph to 60 miles per hour, the stopping distance more than triples;

— Never pass with limited visibility or in a no-passing zone;

— Be alert for farm equipment that may be turning left. Tractors not only turn onto roads or into driveways but can also turn into fields; and

— Slow down and increase following distance if you come upon equipment with an SMV emblem.

The center has this advice for farmers:

— Machinery must display a slow moving vehicle emblem when traveling under 25 miles per hour. In addition to the SMV emblem, tractors and machinery must also display a speed-appropriate speed identification symbol when traveling between 25 and 40 miles per hour. Never exceed the top-rated speed of any trailed implements;

— Use proper lighting on farm equipment, including flashing amber lights in the front and rear. Use lights and flashers at all times of the day for increased visibility. Use of lights on tractors is required after dark and during times when visibility is reduced under 1,000 feet; and

— Stay in the lane, do not drive equipment half on the shoulder and half on the road. A tractor can easily lose control on a soft shoulder. Ditches that parallel most rural New York roadsides can cause potentially fatal rollovers for tractors.

This advice for both motorists and farmers is also offered by the center:

— Look down the road as far as possible to be aware of what is coming and increase your warning time. At 60 miles per hour, a vehicle is covering 88 feet per second; and

— Distractions can double your reaction time. Pay attention and keep your phone shut off while driving. Hands-free phones are legal to use but can still be a distraction.

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