By Sara Tischauser
As farmers are trying to get their crops planted, motorists may find themselves having to share the road with more farm equipment.
Kelly Oudenhoven, herd manager at Larrand Dairy, said she has seen some of the close calls with farm equipment and motor vehicles on the road. Oudenhoven grew up on a farm and now works at her husband Keith’s family farm.
“I remember my dad being out on tractor and people passing when they shouldn’t,” Oudenhoven said.
With her personal concern with farm equipment road safety and her involvement with the Farm Bureau, Oudenhoven said their farm was chosen to host Rural Safety Media Day in March.
She said they were able to shut off the road past the farm so regular traffic could not come through. Then they showed members of the media what it is like from the farm equipment operators perspective and the motorists on the road.
Oudenhoven said those who participated were able to see how difficult it is for the equipment operator to see a vehicle trying to pass the farm equipment in non-passing zones. Also, she said that passing farm machinery in a no passing zone is illegal.
According to Wisconsin Statute 346.09 (3)(b) vehicles cannot pass “an implement of husbandry or agricultural commercial motor vehicle” in a no passing zone.
Unfortunately, Oudenhoven said she has seen too often where farm equipment is getting passed in no passing zones. She said there have been some close calls when a farmer signals to turn left and a driver tries to pass the farmer on the left hand side at the same time. She said this can lead to accidents that can injure multiple people.
According to the Rural Road Safety Media Sheet, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) reported 175 traffic-related crashes involving farm equipment which resulted in 71 injuries and seven fatalities in 2018.
During the media day Oudenhoven said they allowed the media to be on the tractor and see how difficult it can be to make a left hand turn into a field when there is a car passing on the left. She said they used three different types of equipment to show the differences.
The important thing Oudenhoven said is for vehicle drivers to be observant. She said even in passing zones drivers need to stay observant because farmers may be signaling to make a turn to enter into a field or other driveway.
“If you are following [farm equipment] always assume the tractor is turning into the farm,” Oudenhoven said.
While Oudenhoven is working with the cows, she said she sees and hears what is going on near the farm.
“Whenever we do field work, a lot of times I hear a tractor coming down the road and hear someone slam on brakes,” Oudenhoven said. “I think is this gonna be too close of a call, is this gonna be the day someone hits one of our tractors.”
This June as some of the planting was delayed, Oudenhoven said there may be more farm machinery on the road than usual at this time. She asked that motorists be patient and observant.
“If people can just slow down and save one life or two lives or three lives and just add a couple of minutes onto their commute it would mean the world,” Oudenhoven said. “For me, if you could just slow down, pay attention and be observant it would help.”
According to the Rural Road Safety Media Sheet (source National Ag Safety Database): “Following a tractor driving 20 mph for two miles will slow you down around six minutes.”
In addition, Oudenhoven said these farmers are just trying to get their work done and are not out on the roads just driving around.
“We have a small window to get our crops in and get our crops off,” Oudenhoven said. “We are not out there joy riding. We are out there for a purpose.”
Those people out there on the tractor, Oudenhoven said are someone’s family. They are fathers, mothers, grandparents, friends and so on.
“We want our family to come home safe,” Oudenhoven said. “That’s my family out there and I want my family to be safe.”