When it comes to driving farm equipment on the highway, leaders from Georgia Farm Bureau, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) and the Georgia Department of Agriculture have a simple message: Be the right kind of highway statistic.
That statistic? Zero. As in, zero accidents between vehicles and farm equipment on the roads.
“It is a tough goal. We’re talking about agricultural equipment that has enormous size and not exactly the same speed as some of those that are out here on our rural roads traveling,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said.
Even close calls are eye-opening. Colquitt County Farm Bureau member Jody Redding vividly remembers driving his tractor across a bridge last fall, a seed drill in tow, when a tractor-trailer rig rapidly approached from the other direction.
“I didn’t think it was going to be able to stop in time,” said Redding, a field representative for Sen. Johnny Isakson. “I couldn’t have put my boot between my front tire and his front tire. The episode I had, I don’t ever want to have that again. It was just too close for comfort.”
Too many times slow-moving farm vehicles end up in crashes with faster vehicles.
Between 2014 and 2018, there were nearly 2,200 crashes in Georgia involving farm or construction vehicles, according to the GOHS. In those accidents, 28 people died and 875 were injured.
The GOHS, Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) held a press conference Oct. 15 at Sunbelt Expo. They urged motorists and farmers to exercise vigilance on the road, particularly during harvest, when more farm vehicles must use roads to move between fields.
GFB President Gerald Long noted the margin for error on the road has diminished.
“In many cases, the roads are the same size as they’ve always been,” Long said. “Our farm equipment has gotten much bigger.”
Long encouraged farmers to develop relationships with their local law enforcement and ask for police escorts when they must drive their farm equipment on the roads.
The GOHS and Department of Agriculture are pushing for increased road awareness with their “Increase Our Yield Behind the Wheel” campaign.
Drivers are encouraged to reduce speed when approaching farm vehicles on the road and only pass in designated passing zones.
“Too many people like to speed and drive distracted in rural areas because there are generally fewer vehicles traveling on these roads,” said Allen Poole, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “But rural roads are where our farmers work, and drivers need to obey the speed limit and watch the road so they can slow down and safely pass these vehicles.”
Farmers should make sure their vehicles are properly marked and all safety equipment is working properly before getting on the road.
Georgia law requires all farm equipment on the road to have orange triangle-shaped signs. These signs signify that the equipment is traveling at a speed that is significantly slower than the normal flow of traffic.