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Going the extra mile

Agriculture.com Staff 04/12/2008 @ 11:00pm

Improving road safety for farm equipment and nonfarm vehicles is a two-way street. Farmers need to approach each road as if it could be a dead end. Literally.

That means going beyond the letter of the law for lighting and marking equipment. It means training employees in safety and adopting an attitude that doesn't rely on the other guy doing the right thing.

This defensive-driving equation also requires farmers to reach out to the nonfarm public. The producer committee of the Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) has launched a safety campaign called It's Preventable!

Last fall, I-CASH partnered with my daughter's 4-H club. I-CASH provided them with SMV emblems, reflective tape, and safety materials to give to farmers at a local co-op.

The 4-Hers were surprised that many drivers were hauling grain for someone else. The drivers didn't own the equipment or know if reflective tape or new SMV emblem were needed. This highlights the need for farmers to help employees and part-time workers safely move ag equipment on public roads.

Last year, the Arkansas State Supreme Court held a farmer responsible for a fatal crash of an SUV and a tractor driven by the farmer's employee. The tractor's lighting was blocked by an implement.

Last summer I-CASH members distributed promotional materials with the It's Preventable! message at the Iowa State Fair. I-CASH is pursuing other ways to get this message to driver's ed students and in driver's manuals and exams.

Teens operating farm equipment on roads is also a concern. A Successful Farming magazine survey shows 47% of farmers believe it's best for operators to have a valid driver's license. In 1997, Wisconsin became the only state to mandate that youth under age 16 take a tractor safety certification course to drive on public roads.

A media event organized by the Polk County (Iowa) Farm Bureau, Polk County sheriff's office, and the Iowa State Patrol is another avenue to reach people. My daughter's 4-H club also has discussed creating a display for the next Boone County Health and Safety Fair.

After farmer Kent Blades was nearly killed in a collision with a semitrailer near Shelbina, Missouri, his sister, Joy Powers, recorded a public service announcement on a local radio station.

She urged drivers to slow down, stay alert, and show extra patience. She pleaded with farmers to replace worn and faded SMV emblems and to make their equipment visible. "We can all do our part," she said. She's right. Farmers need to meet the challenge head-on.

Improving road safety for farm equipment and nonfarm vehicles is a two-way street. Farmers need to approach each road as if it could be a dead end. Literally.

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