For the farming community, the tell-tale signs of spring trigger the countdown for this year’s growing season. Planting across the province has already commenced for frost tolerant crops like small grains, potatoes and sweet green peas. Throughout the winter months farmers have ordered inputs, maintained equipment and eagerly anticipated getting back into the fields. For many, planting requires travelling busy and potentially dangerous roads.
As the temperatures continue to rise and roadways get busier, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) wants to remind all motorists to stay alert for farm equipment. Remember to be patient, slow down when you see the slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign and share the road with farm machinery travelling from field-to-field. A daunting 74% of farm SMV accidents occur between summer and late harvest. Our equipment is slow, heavy, wide and we have a limited window of opportunity to get our crops in the ground.
The reality is that farm equipment on the road runs a higher risk than most. 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. Farm SMV injuries and fatalities are mostly related to rollovers. These occur while entering, exiting, or crossing roadways, veering off the shoulder and accidents involving a motor vehicle passing while large machinery is making a turn.
It is my hope that we can mitigate risk collaboratively through public education, partnership with municipalities and farmers modelling best practices for road safety.
This week, team OFA exhibited and presented at the 2022 Good Roads Conference. We were there to advocate on behalf of our membership for safe roads for farm equipment and shared resources on how to do so. Over the course of three days, we discussed road safety and how it pertains to agriculture with municipal councillors and staff from all corners of the province. We aim to continue the discussion with municipalities to ensure roads, overpasses and other infrastructure is designed with farm equipment in mind. We understand that road safety is a two-way street, with both farmers and the public having a responsibility in keeping our communities safe.
What does the orange triangle mean? The SMV sign on the back of our equipment, wagon, or trailer, signifies that we cannot exceed a speed of 40 km/h. It is easy to get frustrated when you find yourself behind a piece of farm equipment, but we ask all drivers to slow down, take a breath and practice patience. Additionally, do not expect the SMV vehicle to pull over on the shoulder – as this could be dangerous for a large piece of equipment. If you want to pass, you are required by law to slow down to the speed of the vehicle and only pass when it is safe to do so. We are on the roads to grow the food that feeds the province, country, and world. We want to make it home to our loved ones safely and we want the same for you too.
It is worth waiting the few seconds or minutes it takes to pass farm equipment safely. Passenger vehicles incorrectly passing farm equipment results in serious accidents or death. Shockingly, 8 out of 10 accidents occur during the day and 7 out of 10 occur with dry road conditions. Unfortunately, I can personally attest to these statistics. In 2019, my son in law’s tractor was involved in a serious accident. It was a Tuesday, just before noon, on a flat stretch of road with pristine road conditions. A motorist tried to pass him on the inside right and hit his tractor’s back tire. He was ejected from the tractor and hit his head. He spent four days in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. He was the primary caregiver to his wife and three young children. He is still unable to work due to crippling headaches, sensitivity to bright lights and noise, and a permanent back injury.
It is important to remember that behind the wheel of that tractor or combine is someone’s loved one. We are all someone’s friend, co-worker, father, mother, daughter, son, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew. Shaving a few seconds or minutes off your arrival time is not worth altering a family’s life forever.
For the farming community, it’s vital to conduct a daily 360-degree safety check before you leave the laneway. Ensure your hitches, brakes, tires, and PTOs are maintained and ready for the roads. Additionally, make sure your lights are working properly and that your SMV sign is visible and secure. Lastly, plan your route accordingly.
When on the road operating farm equipment stay alert, stay on the paved portion of the road, and stay off your smartphone. Additionally, be aware of other motorists and signal well in advance on busy roadways. To guarantee that you are visible to drivers, lights must be on farm
equipment from 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise.
It is important that everyone keeps these safety tips in mind throughout the growing season. Together, we can ensure everyone gets home safely. On behalf of OFA, I wish all Ontario farmers a safe and bountiful plant ’22.