MOULTRIE, Ga. – It’s harvest season in Georgia and more farm equipment will be heading out on rural roads across the state as farmers transport equipment and produce between fields and processing areas.
Because farm equipment is designed to be used primarily in the field and not for typical highway speeds, The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Georgia Department of Agriculture are teaming up for the fourth year to remind motorists and farmers to use caution during harvest time.
“We want drivers who are navigating our rural roads to be mindful of tractors and other farm equipment that may be transporting harvest from field to field,” GOHS Director Harris Blackwood said. “In rural regions around farmland, speed limits are higher, and motorists should be aware that this is the season when field equipment is sharing the asphalt with motor vehicles.”
Motorists are urged to slow down when they approach a slow-moving vehicle. If a vehicle is traveling at 55 mph and comes upon a tractor that’s moving at just 15 mph, it only takes 5 seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between the vehicle and tractor.
Last year in Georgia, there were 462 farm equipment related collisions that resulted in 169 injuries and 10 fatalities. The number of crashes has increased more than 7 percent from 2012, and fatalities are up 11 percent in the same time period.
“These fatalities are 100 percent avoidable,” said Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. “Farming is a crucial aspect of Georgia commerce and agriculture. We need to ensure that these farm workers can do their jobs safely to get food on our tables and contribute to a safe and prosperous harvest season in Georgia.”
Farmers should mark any equipment that travels on the road with a slow moving vehicle triangle. The triangle is orange with a red border and is reflective. Unfortunately, fewer than 30 percent of drivers know what this symbol means, but it’s a matter of life and death for motorists and farm equipment operators on rural roads. The symbol is meant to notify motorists that the vehicle travels at speeds of 25 mph or less. It’s a reflector, but also a warning for motorists to slow down.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing an upward trend in farm equipment related incidents,” Blackwood said. “Over the past five years, 43 people have lost their lives in these collisions. That’s 43 families that have been changed forever. Slow down when you see the reflective triangle. Be patient. Allow these equipment drivers the opportunity to safely get out of the flow of traffic.”
For more information on slow moving vehicle safety, please visit gahighwaysafety.org or agr.georgia.gov.