by Stephen Wagner
Some messages bear repeating, and often. As messages go, ‘try to drive safely on rural roads’ is one of them. It is a common sense notion, but as notions go, it doesn’t always factor in daydreaming at the wheel, impatience, or a driving ambition to be ahead of a larger and/or slower vehicle. These are merely earmarks of America’s on-demand society, wanting something and wanting it now. Road rage is another pervasive factor, one seen all too often these days. As an annual reminder, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau conscienciously does its part to dramatize the courteous and perceptive aspects of potential bottlenecks on narrow country roads, an event that the local media is anxious to embrace. PennDOT crash data reports 88 crashes and two fatalities involving farm equipment in Pennsylvania in 2012.
This year’s reminder was staged in South Lebanon Township at the dairy farm dairy of Joel Krall. “The purpose of Rural Roads Safety Week is to alert drivers that large, slow-moving farm vehicles and equipment are once again traveling on rural roads across the state,” said Krall. “We’re urging motorists to use caution when approaching farm vehicles and be patient if they are delayed.” The Krall farm is an idyllic venue for illustrating the problem. It farms about 115 total acres, double-cropping everything with rye. On flat land for nearly as far as the eye can see, rye is the pervasive crop. A long and straight narrow access drive from the main road to the farm operation is not a main route but it is emblematic of many rural roads with similar dimensions. When slow moving farm machinery returned from a main road demonstration, a number of late media vehicles ironically got bottled up behind it, but did arrive in time to hear the speakers.
“One of PennDOT’s main priorities is to ensure the safety of the motoring public,” said Deputy Secretary Bradley L. Mallory. “That priority includes large farm equipment and rural roads. Rural Roads Safety Week reminds us all to take proactive measures to protect ourselves and others. I urge all motorists to buckle up, slow down and stay alert when driving. As you know, and as you may have experienced coming here today, many rural roads offer a little less room to maneuver — loose gravel or grassy berms, sometimes no berms, an array of sharp dips and unexpected turns.”
Farmers are legally allowed to operate farm equipment on Pennsylvania roads and they must display the Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) Emblem on the rear of all vehicles or equipment that consistently travel at speeds of 25 mph or less.
“The importance of obeying traffic laws on rural roadways is great,” said Trooper Adam Reed, Public Information Coordinator with the Pennsylvania State Police. “Motorists should exhibit the same level of care and caution on these roads as if they were traveling on the interstate. It’s especially important on rural roads not to have a phone in your hand or be sending a text message to a friend while coming around a bad hill or a blind curve.” Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture George Greig presented a proclamation from Governor Corbett declaring April 14-20 as Rural Roads Safety Week in Pennsylvania.
Farm Bureau notes that while it’s timely to remind motorists to be cautious now that spring planting is underway, practicing safe driving habits on rural roads is important all year long.
“Farmers truly care about being good neighbors and operating their vehicles safely. In fact, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau spearheaded recent changes to the state vehicle code that allow farmers to practically move farm equipment on roads and require farmers to undertake added safety precautions, including the use of additional lighting and escort vehicles under certain situations,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer.
PFB has created a brochure with background information and tips for motorists and farmers as part of Rural Roads Safety Week. The brochure can be viewed or downloaded from the following link: www.pfb.com/images/brochures/current-RRS-bro.pdf.