by Noah Radliff

My wife and I have lived in our rural upstate town for over 14 years and I have known agriculture for my entire life. Being farmers and being part of this large agriculture community I have, as other long time residents, become used to the smells, the sights and sounds of animals along with the noise of tractors going up and down the roads because of whatever tasks they need to do. The roads are narrow and winding. There are blind driveways and knolls that reveal small communities that seem to appear from nowhere.

In these small communities people are doing their day-to-day activities; going to work, driving to the store, farming, any regular routine that people do on a daily basis. Like the weather in upstate New York, nothing stays the same for very long. Houses are bought and sold, farms are divided, smaller farms are created and the activity of these families and their children playing next to and on these roads increase. These new small farms have people/families excited about their new agricultural endeavor; buying machinery to farm their land and placing animals within their fence line on their newly acquired property.

The newer farmer that is not as skilled in driving tractors or pulling an implement might not know how to handle a situation with the traffic in the area. Tractors on local large farms are known to be larger and are able to pull larger implements allowing them to get done with chores at a quicker rate.

Cars and trucks are becoming larger and there are more technological distractions built right into them giving more ability for the driver to become distracted.

These old winding roads are seeing an increase of traffic, snow plowing, tractor trailer deliveries, road crew activity, dairy pick up and agriculture right alongside it and unfortunately these things do meet and when they do it can be absolutely tragic.

I have been run off the road by a distracted driver, driven up on and then passed on my left as I was going to make a left hand turn. I have witnessed what happens to a tractor and its driver when it is met head on by a distracted driver in a car on a cell phone and doing other things other than keeping their eyes on the road. The farmer that drove the tractor was killed and left a grieving family and a hole in the community.

After these personal incidents and the horrible thoughts that I had for my children losing their father or my fear about losing my children, I decided it was time to bring this to my local town’s attention. I can tell you there is no step-by-step book I have found informing how to get the roads more community attention, speed limits changed, notifying the drivers in the area of increased agricultural activities and families that are raising their children in these wonderful rural areas.

These are the steps that I have found out, through trial and error, to start the process of trying to reduce the speed limit and bring attention to increased traveling on agricultural roads.

My first suggestion is to find out who has the jurisdiction over the roads. You need to find out if it is a town or county road. Just because the town may be maintaining the road doesn’t mean that it falls under the town jurisdiction. It may be that the town is being paid to maintain the road.

Next, bring your concerns to your township. Ask them to please reduce the speed limit for safety. At this particular point, it doesn’t matter who has jurisdiction of the road. It matters that you are a community member concerned for yourself, your family and your fellow neighbors’ safety. At the town board meeting it’s better to know that the highway supervisor is there so he or she can hear of your issue directly. In my case the road is a narrow road with no lines and no posted speed limit signs with increased agricultural activities.

To get your concerns noted quicker, make sure to go to your township’s meeting with a written concern giving specific incidents of increased activity and submit that concern to the people on the board. In my case it was vehicles not obeying the state speed limit, aggressive drivers and large 18-wheelers who were not making deliveries using the narrow roads to get from point A to point B using the GPS’s quickest route. Make sure to provide times and dates when and if you had to notify your local law enforcement of an incident. (On another note, try to get their license plate when possible.)

After you have submitted your letter of concern make sure to follow up with your town’s board. Ask them if there is anything else they need. Sometimes, like in my case, it’s the written letter that needs to be formally submitted through the town’s board to the county board because of jurisdiction.

If the above seems not to be effective enough then the concerned people in the area can create and sign a petition joining in one voice telling the board and county there is a problem that needs to be fixed.

Getting the speed limit changed is no easy task. There are steps the highway departments need to take such as measuring traffic and speed of vehicles. In my case, while the concerns were being evaluated, the county was able to place several school bus stopping location signs.

There are also steps that you can take to let drivers know you are driving alongside the road or are crossing the road due to agricultural activities.

  • Use orange road cones or orange 5-gallon buckets.
  • Have a spotter when available. A second set of eyes can be more valuable than you know.
  • When on a tractor do your best to let vehicles know in advance your next move. If possible pull over at the most convenient spot for vehicles to pass. The vehicles passing need to know if there is oncoming traffic. Do not pull over on the crest of a hill.
  • Always be vigilant. When you are on the tractor you are responsible for yourself. If you happen to see a distracted driver take it upon yourself to slow down, pull over and possibly stop to allow them to pass.

The more informed we are the safer we all can be. Remember, someone needs to feed those cows, someone needs to plow those fields, someone needs to take care of our roads and EVERYONE needs to return home safely.