Alcohol ruled out in tractor crash
By John Joyce
Published in News on May 29, 2013 1:46 PM
A tractor accident that claimed the lives of two people earlier this month was not caused by alcohol, local officials say.
Terry Glenn Lee and his granddaughter, Kelsey Renee Davidson, 5, were killed when a pickup truck plowed into the back of the tractor they were riding on Baker Chapel Church Road just after 9 p.m.
Alcohol proved not to be a factor in the accident. The driver of the truck was not charged.
But that was just one of several accidents involving farm equipment in the county this month.
On May 21, a wreck with injuries involving a tractor occurred on I-795 near N.C. 44. The driver of a 2004 GMC sport utility vehicle tried to pass another vehicle and slammed into a tractor.
A day earlier in Mar-Mac, a car ended up in a ditch after the driver tried to pass a tractor and ran off the road.
These recent crashes should remind drivers that during the farming season extra care has to be taken to avoid the slow-moving equipment, law enforcement officials say.
And there are rules of the road for farm equipment operators, too.
While a special license is not needed to operate a tractor or other farm equipment on a highway in North Carolina, operators do have to follow certain rules.
According to the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, a tractor can be operated by anyone over age 14, whether or not they are licensed to drive a motor vehicle.
Tractors can only be driven on state and county roads in the conduct of farming activities. The tractor may cross a road to get from one field or farm to another or be driven from farm to market or market to farm within a 10-mile radius. Its speed cannot exceed 35 mph.
Farm vehicles are also exempt from having to be registered. They do, however, have to comply with state highway safety requirements.
"There must be a light in front, at least one red light in the back and turn signals," said Sgt. Philip Collins of the N.C. State Highway Patrol.
There also should be a reflective triangle attached to the rear of the tractor or farm equipment to indicate a slow moving vehicle to approaching drivers.
There are separate laws regarding the operation of a motor vehicle that do not apply to farm vehicles, but accidents involving farm equipment are investigated the same as if both vehicles were motor vehicles.
The regulations regarding the driving of tractors and farm vehicles on state roads are available online.
"Realize a tractor is a slow-moving vehicle. Slow down," Collins said. "Sometimes we see things in the road that should alert us but, we (have become) a society that races right past things."
If a situation seems dangerous, regardless of what a driver's time constraints are, put safety and the preservation of life at the top of the list of priorities, he said.
"Slow down, pull over."