Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Sid Freeman and Don Sonke announced a cooperative farm safety project between Canyon and Ada County Farm Bureaus--Jake Putnam photo
Canyon and Ada County Team Up For Farm Safety
Boise--The headlines each spring are disturbing and frequent: motorists injured in accidents with farm machinery.
Now the Treasure Valleys most prominent farm organizations are teaming up to raise farm safety awareness on rural roadways.
"There's just a lot more congestion on our roads," said Canyon County Farm Bureau Board member Sid Freeman. "We're seeing more and more impatient people and they don't realize how long it takes machinery to get from one field to the next. They end up putting themselves and others at risk by making bad decisions on the road."
Canyon County and Ada County Farm Bureau organizations formed a partnership to produce and air public service announcements urging motorist to look out for farm machinery this spring on rural roadways.
Ada County's rural accident are on the rise, that concerns Ada County Farm Bureau President Don Sonke. "We saw the PSA's that Canyon County produced, we just thought it was a project we'd like to get involved with," said Sonke. Freeman added that there were several near fatal accidents last summer in Canyon County that could have been prevented with awareness and understanding about farming and farm machinery.
"Every year the near misses make the headlines; it boils down to this: one fatal accident is too many," said Freeman. "With all those misses its just a mater of time before someone gets killed and that's unacceptable."
Sonke points out that Ada County farmland is being replaced by subdivisions, that means more traffic and more accidents. "Drivers don't expect to see farm equipment anymore and they're miles from the city limit, they don't know what to do." he said.
Freeman points out that farmers are using much bigger equipment and this change came about just a few years ago. "It's to save money, fewer passes through a field, that burns a lot less diesel and takes a lot less time, it comes back to staying profitable and staying on the farm, we take up a lot more roadway that we used to and drivers are not used to that."
Some farmers are so concerned that they're using extra flags and even pilot cars to keep the public safe, but its a losing game because as the rural population grows, traffic speed goes up and patience wears thin; patience and respect will be a big part of the PSA script.
The Farm Bureaus will start production on two new Public Service Announcements in early March, the Pubic Service Announcements will start running on Treasure Valley television and radio stations in April, just as the equipment hits the roads for spring planting.
Sonke and Freeman says the PSA's will center on basic rural safety tips:
Left-turn collision Defensive driving tips: -Is it really turning? Don't assume a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right, or is letting you pass. Check the operator's hand signals. - Is there a turn signal? A flashing light on a tractor that suddenly stops flashing is a turn signal. Slow down when you see this signal. -Where could it turn? Check the left side of the road for gates, driveways, or any place a farm vehicle might turn.
Rear-end collision Defensive driving tips: -Be alert. Always watch for farm vehicles on rural roads, especially at planting and harvest. -Slow down immediately. As soon as you see a slow-moving vehicle, start to apply brakes like you would when approaching a stoplight. -Keep your distance. Stay a safe distance behind farm vehicles. Most farm equipment is not designed to travel at speeds greater than 25 miles an hour. Even when towed behind a truck, equipment such as sprayers and fuel tanks often travels less than 25 miles an hour.
Passing collision Defensive driving tips:Be patient. Don't assume the farmer can move aside to let you pass. Shoulders may be soft, wet, or steep, which can cause the farm vehicle to tip, or they may not be able to support a heavy farm vehicle. -Make sure you're clear. When passing, make sure you can see the farm vehicle in your rear-view mirror before you get back in your lane. -Enjoy the drive. Even if you have to slow down to 20 miles an hour and follow a tractor for two miles, it takes only six minutes of your time, about the same as waiting for two stoplights.
With tighter budgets, Ada and Canyon County Farm Bureaus says both organizations can have an impact and spend less money doing it, "theres a need out there, someone has to do something," Sonke and Freeman reasoned.
At the Jefferson County Fair in Rigby its fair time and all the action on this day is in the livestock barn.