PHILADELPHIA — Fall signals the start of one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. For rural roads, it is particularly deadly. Even though only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, almost half of all U.S. fatal crashes occur there, according to a new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association.
You can help reduce the potential for dangerous roadway crashes when moving agricultural equipment by making your equipment highly visible to other motorists. The more visible you are, the less likely you’ll be involved in a crash. Being seen can mean the difference between life and death.
When operating in the dark, be sure to:
Use a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign. This is your warning to other drivers to slow down and move with caution. The SMV sign is required for any vehicles traveling 25 mph or less on public roads. Particularly for night driving, make sure your SMV sign is clean and still reflective. If it isn’t, it is time to be replaced.
“If you are trailering equipment, be sure to cover or remove the SMV sign,” stated John Harrell, Lebanon County farmer/leader and Chair of the Pennsylvania Soybean Board. “It is confusing to drivers and makes the SMV sign less effective if it is not properly used.”
Turn on lights and flashers. It’s illegal to drive at night without properly functioning front and rear lights, so before you take to the road, make sure they are in full working order. Amber flashers help warn other drivers to be cautious moving ahead.
“Don’t forget about the trailer,” commented Harrell. “When pulling equipment, you can’t rely just on the lights from the tractor or truck. This can increase the risk of collision because these lights can become obstructed by the roadway curving or the large loads being pulled, such as large hay bales.”
Use reflective markings/flags. Reflective marking material is an effective, low-cost way to mark wide or long equipment. When towing equipment, reflective tape and fluorescent flags should be placed on the far left and right edges of the equipment. Fluorescent material is visible in both daytime and low-light conditions.
Use an escort vehicle. Flashing lights will provide a warning to other vehicles that they should be cautious on the road ahead.
Keep windows clean. A build-up of condensation or dirt can impair visibility, so it’s important to take time to clean them before driving on roadways.
Know when to leave the field. Seasonal changes can affect your sleep patterns. With an hour less of light in the evenings, your melatonin levels may be higher, leaving you feeling a little more bleary-eyed than normal. Driving tired makes you a danger to yourself and other road users, so plan a shorter day as the sun rests.
Check your vision. Driving as daytime turns into night can be very tricky as your eyes have to constantly adjust to lower light levels. Often this is the first time drivers realize they have an eyesight problem where they struggle to see traffic properly when facing glare from oncoming vehicles and traffic lights. If you are experiencing difficulties, have your eyes tested to have appropriate lenses for driving at night. Your optician may recommend an anti-reflection glasses or coating on your lenses to reduce glare.
“I travel with a phone charger and extra batteries to make sure I always have a charged phone and flashlight ready to use in case of emergency,” added Harrell. “If you are involved in an accident or equipment breaks down, find a safe place to stop and leave your hazard warning lights on while you wait for help.”
–Pennsylvania Soybean Board