Sept. 18-24 is National Farm Safety and Health Week and Iowa Farm Safety and Health Week. Clarke McGrath, on-farm research and extension coordinator for the Iowa Soybean Research Center and extension agronomist at Iowa State University, provides farm safety tips during harvest, based on his experience as a firefighter, EMT, and involvement in the agriculture industry.
Question: What would you share, based on your experiences, with other drivers during harvest season?
Answer: From a non-farm citizen perspective, safety on the roads is imperative. We have to be aware that during harvest and fall field work season, there will be a lot of large and slow moving equipment on the roads. There will also be a lot of grain trucks on the roads, and it is a tough job to drive those things! They don’t accelerate or stop like a car or SUV, so hopefully we can help spread the word to help our non-farm drivers remember to watch for them and try to help them out when we can.
Road safety tips during harvest:
- Slow down immediately when you see farm equipment ahead of you on the road. Farm equipment isn’t very fast, think 15-20 mph on the road on average perhaps. If you are driving 55 mph, you are covering around 80 feet per second; it won’t take very long to be right on top of a slow moving vehicle.
- Be patient and wait to safely pass farm equipment. Unsafe passing was one of the primary factors of a lot of our motor vehicle accidents we responded to in the fall.
- Along those same lines, be careful when approaching on-coming farm equipment. Oncoming vehicles might not be as patient as you are and pull out suddenly to pass the farm equipment—right into your path.
- Farm equipment often has to make wide turns, so be aware of that and help out by being patient and giving them room to turn.
- Since some of the equipment is fairly wide, you may still have to edge out on the other side of the road, further than normal; even though growers are very good at getting over as far as they safely can to let you by. Road shoulders can be notoriously tricky; they are even more challenging when the ground is as wet as it is now.
- Harvest seems to amplify deer movement both day and night. Watch your speed and scan your surroundings for them as you drive. Like anything else, situational awareness will help reduce risk.