Farm Horizons, November 2007

Share and share alike

Farmers say patience is best when together on the roads

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Spring planting and fall harvest can be a hair-raising time for local farmers, especially when it comes to sharing the roads with other vehicles.

For many local farmers there has been close calls when it comes to accidents and others were unfortunate enough to have experienced it.

For example, Andrew Salonek, 17, of Waverly knows all too well what can happen if drivers aren’t careful during these seasons.

Salonek was working on two different farms planting beans one spring evening in 2006. He had left one farm along Highway 25 and was traveling northbound to Herm Epple’s farm just down the road. He was driving a red, Case International tractor and was pulling a Brillion packer.

Following all safety precautions, Salonek had all lights flashing and was about to make a left-hand turn. He noticed in his rear view mirror a gravel truck approaching. Salonek put on his blinker and he was already making the turn when he saw the truck trying to pass him. With no time to stop, the gravel truck struck Salonek’s tractor in the left rear axle and pulled the packer with the front bumper.

With the brunt force of impact, the tractor tipped over, and was dragged 30 feet on its side into the driveway.

“We are very fortunate we had the rollover protection cab,” said Andy’s father, Pat.

What prevented the tractor from rolling over completely was that a piece of the packer Salonek was hauling, got stuck in the truck’s fuel tank and stayed attached to the tractor in an upright position, Pat said.

Salonek was able to get out of the cab through the window and call for help. He was taken to Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia with minor cuts and abrasions. The truck driver was uninjured.

“Everyone’s in a hurry these days,” Pat said. He remembers a time when drivers were more courteous to farmers on the road.

“We have to get to those fields, there isn’t anything we can do about it,” he said.

Pat asks drivers to be patient during the busy times which include April through May and from mid-September to mid-November.

Also, a former employee of Gary Diers from Diers Farm Inc. was rear-ended by a young driver a few years back.

Although the driver of the tractor used the necessary requirements including clearance lights and turn signals, he was still rear-ended while making a left hand turn. Luckily, for the driver of the other vehicle, the manure spreader that was hit was empty.

The driver of the vehicle reported the tractor being further away than anticipated, but slow-moving farm equipment can come up sooner at a faster pace, according to Kathy Pederson from the Minnesota State Patrol.

After the incident, Diers has taken other precautionary measures to ensure the same type of accident doesn’t happen again.

For example, on several of his large forage boxes, Diers placed a large sign that reads, “Blind left turns, pass with care.”

On many of the farm machinery, it is hard for the farmers to see cars coming up behind them.

Diers also installed all of his wagons with clearance lights and brake lights. Since older wagons don’t come with such lights, they needed to be retrofitted, he said.

Diers believes that many of the farm/vehicle accidents occur because often times people are irritated by farm machinery.

“We do what we can, but we have to share the roads,” Diers said.

Safety tips for drivers

Pederson has some tips to keep everyone on the road safe during spring planting and fall harvest times.

First, respect farmers. “They are only on the road for a short time in the spring and fall.

Second, approach slowly, since it is hard to tell how slow the implement is traveling.

Third, Pederson recommends passing the implement slowly and providing enough room between both vehicles. “Do not tailgate,” she said.

Also, look for the farm vehicle to be making a turn, Pederson said. If it is approaching you, allow enough space since it may be partially in your lane, she said.

On the other hand, farmers should give the vehicles following an opportunity to pass. This can prevent a “bad pass” and ultimately causing an accident. Along with this, Pederson recommends not to “bunch up” farm vehicles because it makes it more difficult for followers to pass.

Also, try not to travel on the roads before or after sunset when it is too hard to see the dimensions of the farm vehicles, according to Pederson.

Make sure all lights are working – signal lights, clearance lights, and brake lights – before heading out on the roads, Pederson said.

Pederson also recommends trailering over-width machinery if there is more than five miles to travel, and making sure empty trailers (especially when there is more than one) are under control. n

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