In Niagara County during the last five years, there have been three near-fatal car-tractor collisions on the highway.
Farm tractors on the highway, with a top speed of 25 mph, can be annoying to nonfarm drivers, who often drive dangerously in approaching and passing slow moving vehicles.
As build-out occurs in Niagara County, and Western New York in general, the rural character of communities is changing and with it, conflict between farm users of the highway and everyone else is a serious concern.
According to the National Safety Council, there are more than 15,000 roadway collisions each year that involve farm vehicles on U.S. roads.
More than 90 percent of these collisions occur in the daylight and on dry roads. Usually, when the fatality occurs, the victim is the tractor operator.
Here's what motorists can do to drive safely when encountering farm machinery on public roadways:
* Slow down immediately when you see agricultural equipment on the road with Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblems.
* Be alert for agricultural equipment with reflectors, or flashing lights.
* Expect to see more agricultural equipment on roads during the busy agricultural seasons, such as the spring planting season and the fall harvest season.
* Be careful when trying to pass equipment, as the operator may not see or hear you.
* Pass with caution, as the equipment may be longer and wider than you think.
* Be aware of possible left hand turns into fields.
* Use clean, visible SMV emblems to show equipment is traveling 25 mph or less.
* If your towed equipment obscures the SMV emblem or lights on your tractor, place SMV emblems or lights on your towed equipment.
* Use flashers and turn signals to indicate your location and intentions.
* Use reflective strips to show the size of farm equipment.
* Pull over and allow traffic to pass when it is safe to do so.
* Try to avoid or minimize road travel when it is dark or during times of bad weather or poor visibility.
* Use an escort vehicle if moving large equipment on the road.
* Consider installing service roads in fields along busy highways.
The New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health is always available for specific information on agricultural machinery and roadway safety. Readers should feel free to contact Jim Carrabba at (800) 343-7527, Ext 239, or email@example.com. Safety specialists from the center are available to do road safety presentations to agricultural audiences as well.