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Tractor meets car

I heard it before I saw it. The sound of crunching metal.

When I looked, I saw a tractor in front of my car. The driver had been trying to turn in front of me but didn’t cut the wheel hard enough. The tractor hit my car, cracking the front bumper. With the split in my bumper, the grill fell out. A trip to the auto shop gave me the diagnosis of a new bumper and grill, at a cost of $500.

The driver was very sorry and didn’t mean to hit my car, which was sitting in my driveway. My 7-year-old son was at the wheel, driving his toy tractor around the yard.

His toy tractor weighs 50 pounds, is made of plastic, and reaches a maximum speed of 4.5 miles per hour. If a John Deere Ride-on tractor could do that kind of damage, imagine what would happen if my car hit a full-size tractor.

I don’t have to imagine the impact. Each year there are deadly accidents involving farm equipment and vehicles. With planting season underway, farmers are sharing the road with drivers that don't realize the limitations of large equipment.

Farm traffic on public roads is increasing for many reasons. More people are commuting from their homes in the country to their job in town. Country roads are improving, so vehicles are traveling at higher speeds. Farmers are working land that’s not connected to their main farm, so they must get equipment to these outlying farms. I know some farmers that tend land over an hour from their shop.

Most accidents involving farm equipment happen on clear days, during the day and on paved roads. Tractors, combines and other farm equipment are slow moving vehicles. Most travel at a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour. They were built for fields but must travel on roads to get there. All are required to have a slow-moving vehicle decal on the back of the vehicle because it does travel less than 35 mph.

I used to speak to driver’s education classes to talk to future drivers about scenarios they may encounter on the road involving farm equipment. The most common accidents are vehicles rear-ending tractors, hitting farm equipment turning left, and cutting in front of a tractor when trying to pass. Many of the students in the room, all living in a rural county, had never thought about sharing the road with farm equipment once they were behind the wheel.

I wonder if my son can audit a driver’s ed class to learn how to share the road, or at least the driveway.


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