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home : opinion : editorial
November 20, 2019


10/17/2019 1:12:00 PM
Harvest and the road

The 2019 harvest is obviously running later than usual, but combines are rolling again, as are grain trucks and other farm equipment.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's crash data, from 2016 to 2018, Minnesota saw seven fatalities and 385 crashes involving at least one farm vehicle. Of the seven fatalities, one was a farm vehicle rider. Of the 154 injuries that occurred in those crashes, 50 were farm vehicle riders.
Sometimes we take for granted that everyone in our region knows the drill, when it comes to local traffic awareness during fall harvest season. We assume that since many of us grew up in farm country, we all know what to expect and how to react.
Well, that's not always the case. Every year brings new motorists, whether they be newly-licensed teenagers, or folks who re-located from non-farming areas. It takes these drivers time to get used to things like wide equipment and slow-moving pickups pulling loaded gravity boxes.
So, not only do motorists need to be aware of the usual dangers with farm equipment, we also must practice defensive driving as it relates to inexperienced drivers.
For instance, we should not only watch the car that's directly ahead of us, but it wouldn't hurt to take a peek at what is ahead of that car. Let's say that second vehicle is a smaller pickup pulling a gravity box. Knowing there's a fair chance the pickup is moving slowly, we'll be ready if the car ahead of us suddenly hits the brakes.
Here are a few more suggestions recently offered for motorists by MnDOT:
• Slow down and use caution when approaching farm equipment. Don't assume the operator can see you (the operators often have blind spots).
• Watch for debris dropped by trucks. It is safer to brake or drive through debris than to veer into oncoming cars, or off the road.
• Wait for a safe place to pass.
Meanwhile, area farmers also need to be prepared for folks who are new to harvest-season driving. It's a good idea to put a slow-moving-vehicle sign on that gravity box. Double-check your blinkers, flashers and running lights. Be sure your brakes are working properly.
Here are a few additional tips MnDOT officials recently offered for farmers:
• Use lights and flashers to make equipment more visible.
• Use slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 mph.
• Consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, especially at night.
• Properly secure your load.
If we are all extra-cautious, we can help make this a safe harvest season.
    - Rahn Larson







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