Farmers Promote Safe Driving
Johnston Farms, home of Fulton Valley Ag Services owned and operated by Harry and Dee Johnston, played host to a handful of area farmers, media representatives and county officials last Thursday morning as part of a salute to rural road safety.
In fact, while speaking with television and newspaper outlets, Mc- Connellsburg area farmer and operator Tom Nesbitt may have summed it up best. “Just watch out for us ... Give us a few minutes. We won’t take a lot of time out of your day,” Nesbitt said in promoting Rural Roads Safety Week that ran from April 14 through April 20.
Adding words of support were fellow McConnellsburg resident Jim Butts and Fulton County Farm Bureau President Marlin Lynch of Warfordsburg. While many may think it would be difficult to be involved in an accident with a large, slow-moving piece of farm equipment, Lynch referenced a manure spreader that was struck in Franklin County sending one to the hospital.
Lynch went on to share statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Penn DOT) that indicates a total of 88 crashes involving farm equipment occurred across the commonwealth in 2012. Two individuals suffered fatal injuries during those accidents.
“Rural road safety is an important issue year-round, but it is especially important at this time of year,” said Lynch. “Farmers will be out with large pieces of equipment, and motorists must remain alert for slower-moving vehicles.”
The county Farm Bureau president urged motorists to be on the look out for equipment making left and right turns from a main roadway. A sign equipment is slowing to prepare and make a wide-turn could be the presence of a driveway, lane or farm gate.
Additional steps or tips emphasized by Lynch to ensure safe travels are avoid rushing and allow extra time to reach your destination, which is especially important between the months of April and November; pass with care but never pass when curves or hills hinder your line of sight; brake immediately for the orange, triangular slowmoving vehicle emblem; and remain far enough behind that a farmer can see you in their mirror.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Ken Falkosky of the McConnellsburg barracks shared some requirements from PennDOT with the farmers on-hand as a basic reminder of what items should be included and functioning on their equipment regardless of periodic inspections. Falkosky’s list of musthaves included rear reflectors, head lamps, an adequate braking system, rear wheel shields, a rear view mirror, an exhaust and slow moving vehicle symbol. The sign, he added, must be kept clean of debris and dirt and should be replaced every couple years.
Falkosky, who serves in the capacity of state police community service officer, also provided an overview of suggestions farmers can implement during the daytime and evening hours to help them navigate area roadways. Perhaps one of the most important stressed by Falkosky was the use of a pilot car behind or in front of slow-moving equipment. He urged farmers to use their common sense in deciding where the pilot car should be located, and the height or width of the equipment being operated can sometimes help in rendering a decision.
Other noteworthy points shared by the trooper was the need for an operator to be at least 18-years old when driving farm equipment on roadways at night; turning off rear spotlights at night; retrofitting old tractors with flashing, strobe lights; and if ample room allows, drivers should pull over and allow a line of traffic to pass.