Aggressive Drivers and Tractors a Deadly Mix
North Carolina’s population is projected to increase by more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2030. One obvious side effect of this rapid growth is more cars traveling on the state’s 78,000 miles of maintained urban and rural roadways.
For the average resident, the biggest problem accompanying more traffic is congestion and a longer commute to work. For farmers, however, the top concern is worker safety—specifically, accidents that occur while driving tractors, combines and other equipment along roads between fields.
Often, the farmer’s commute interferes with a non-farmer’s route. Tractors are slow and cumbersome to operate on roadways. They weren’t built for speed. They also weren’t built to survive a collision, especially with a speeding vehicle operated by an aggressive driver.
Some of the most recent statistics on farm vehicle crashes in North Carolina, which were developed by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center in 2001, reported 3,000 crashes between 1991 and 1999.
Of those accidents, more than 50 percent happened when a farm vehicle was either attempting a left turn and was struck by a speeding vehicle attempting to pass, or was rear-ended. That report also revealed the highest frequency of farm vehicle crashes happened between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
While Eastern North Carolina is home to more farms and typically more farm vehicle crashes, Central and Western North Carolina also experience too many farm vehicle crashes due to curving roads and limited visibility.
More of the most recent statistics also show that farm vehicle and non-farm vehicle accidents are less than 1 percent of crashes statewide. A crash involving a farm vehicle and a non-farm vehicle, however, results in death or serious injury 51 percent of the time, according to data from a North Carolina Department of Labor study.
Facing these kinds of odds, you can bet the farm that growers are doing their part to stay safe on the roads. They practice safe turning methods and outfit their farm vehicles with slow moving emblems, flashing beacons and other lights. The state could also help the situation by widening shoulders and posting more tractor caution signs on roadways with frequent-to-heavy tractor traffic.
Sixty-six percent of citations resulting from farm and non-farm vehicle crashes that were issued to non-farm drivers were for failure to reduce speed, so the biggest thing anyone can do to help prevent an accident and save the life of a farmer is to slow down, drive with caution and show some respect for the men and women who are simply trying to get back to work growing our food and fiber.
Along with the population, North Carolina’s agricultural industry has experienced dramatic changes.
Crop diversity, a reduction in the number of farms and vast improvements in biotechnology have created an environment where agricultural practices are considered a year-round activity in many counties across the state.
So, keep an eye out for slow-moving farm vehicles no matter the season. The life you save could be the one that puts food on your family’s table.