03/04/04 — Farm equipment safety stressed

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Farm equipment safety stressed

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on March 4, 2004 2:00 PM

Wayne County had the second highest number of farm vehicle crashes in the state between 1995 and 1999, according to a recent study.

A program known as "Seen and Safe" was established to help educate farmers on how to be safe while operating farm equipment on the highway. The program was established with a grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

Around 170 farmers from a seven-county area -- Edgecombe, Greene, Johnston, Nash, Pitt, Wayne and Wilson -- gathered Monday at the Wayne Center in Goldsboro to participate in the program and learn more about equipment safety. The event was sponsored by The Wayne County Young Farmers Organization along with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and the N.C. Highway Patrol.

A pre-test on farm equipment safety was distributed before the program to see what everyone knew about the subject. Each participant later received the same test to gauge what they had learned.

"We need to really address the issue," said Bob Pleasants, a cooperative extension agent in Wayne County.

There were almost 1,500 farm tractor crashes in the state between 1995 and 1999, and there were 11 crashes on N.C. 55 in Wayne County during a five-year period. The road is considered the worst road in the state for crashes with farm equipment, said Pleasants.

The number of crashes continues to increase due to the rise in population and an increase in the size of farm operations.

Most crashes occur between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and the most crashes are in May. Many occur when a farm vehicle is attempting to make a left turn on a secondary road and another vehicle attempts to pass it.

Reports indicate that the other vehicle is at fault 42 percent of the time, and the farm vehicle operator is to blame 35 percent of the time. In those cases, the operator either used an improper signal, failed to yield, was driving left of center, was using improper equipment or had a safe movement violation.

Pleasants said farmers can prevent crashes by improving their visibility, communicating more effectively with the other vehicle, knowing and following basic laws, replacing and repairing the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem, which is required on all farm vehicles that travel less than 25 miles per hour, adding reflective tape, checking and repairing the light system and adding high-visibility lights.

Sgt. Tom Futrell with the N.C. Highway Patrol addressed the farmers and stated some of the laws that farmers must follow:

*No person under the age of 15 can operate any farm tractor or motor-driven equipment on the highway unless the driver is on the highway beside land where the person lives and when that person is engaged in a farming operation.

*Tractors operated on a highway at night must have one white light visible at least 500 feet from the front of the tractor and at least one red light visible at least 500 feet from the rear of the vehicle. Two red reflectors with a diameter of at least four inches may be used in place of the red light.

He said that any farm vehicle longer than 18 feet must have a permit to be driven on the highway. Any farm vehicle between 10 feet and 18 feet must have a red flag that is 3 feet by 4 feet and can be seen in both directions for a minimum of 300 feet. Or it can have an escort in the front and rear that can be seen for a minimum of 300 feet.

Futrell is stationed in Wilson and is available to answer any questions regarding farm equipment safety. He can be reached by calling 1-252-237-5294.

During the event, farmers received a safety kit valued at $200. The kit included a strobe light, a Slow Moving Vehicle emblem and reflective tape with instructions on where to place it on the vehicle. For more information on the program, call Pleasants at 731-1521.