by Tracey Arts, Director, OFA
As harvest time in Ontario ramps up at this time of year, all of us are likely to see a lot more tractors, combines, and other farm-related vehicles on our roads and highways. In fact, next to spring planting season, harvest is the busiest time of year for farmers as we travel on roadways between multiple locations.
My family and I farm in Oxford County, an area located approximately between Woodstock and London in Southwestern Ontario. It’s where a lot of corn and soybeans are grown, so we know there will be plenty of tractors, wagons and trucks on the road hauling those crops to grain elevators and on-farm storages in the coming weeks.
This makes traffic safety for both farmers and motorists absolutely essential so that we can avoid accidents on our roads and highways. At the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), we’re always active at this time of year, in particular to encourage drivers to be patient and alert around slow moving vehicles as well as reminding farmers to be cautious and courteous when they’re taking equipment on the road.
OFA is supportive of activities that help promote the importance of road safety; it’s something we do all year long with billboard, radio, news and social media messaging. We all have families and friends we want to get home to safely.
Operating large farm equipment on the road runs a higher risk than most at any time of the year, but when roadways become busier, traffic gets heavier and the weather begins to impact visibility, it’s imperative that we keep this top of mind throughout harvest season.
According to federal government data, slow moving vehicles are 3.8 to 4.8 times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision per kilometre on the road than other motor vehicles. OPP statistics show that farm slow moving vehicle injuries and fatalities are mostly related to rollovers and these generally occur while entering, exiting, or crossing roadways, veering off the shoulder and accidents involving a motor.
We recognize the high speed pace of today’s world, whether it’s commuting for work, travelling for school or running around for sports and recreational activities – and it needs to be a priority to take the extra few seconds or minutes to pass farm equipment safely. Passenger vehicles incorrectly passing farm equipment result in serious accidents or death. Shockingly, eight out of 10 accidents occur during the day and seven out of 10 occur on dry road conditions.
Motorists, here’s what you can do to prevent road accidents this harvest season:
Watch out for orange triangles on the back of farm equipment. These are slow moving vehicle signs that mean we legally can’t go faster than 40 km/hour.
Pay attention to indicator lights and remember that a gap between a slow moving vehicle and an oncoming car or truck can close very quickly.
Be patient and pass only when it’s safe. Farm equipment is much larger than it used to be, and many rural roads have narrow shoulders that often prevent farmers from pulling off to the side safely to let motorists pass.
Farmers have a vital role to play in road safety as well. This includes:
Conduct a daily 360-degree safety check of your equipment before leaving the farm.
Ensure your hitches, brakes, tires and PTOs are well-maintained and road ready.
Make sure your lights are working properly and that your slow moving vehicle sign is visible and secure.
Don’t be on your mobile device while driving. What applies in a motor vehicle applies while operating farm equipment too – distracted driving is distracted driving.
Together, we can make our roads safer, our communities stronger and support our farmers to continue providing the food, fuel, flowers and fibre we all depend on. Let’s make sure everyone returns home safe and sound this harvest season.