OFA Viewpoint: Reminding farmers and motorists to practice road safety

Planting season has begun and for many farmers, that means travelling busy and potentially dangerous roads.

As the temperatures continue to rise and roadways get busier, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) wants to remind all motorists to stay alert for farm equipment. 

Remember to be patient and slow down and share the road when you see the slow-moving vehicle sign on tractors travelling field to field.

A daunting 74 per cent of farm vehicle accidents occur between summer and late harvest. 

Our equipment is slow, heavy, wide and we have a limited window of opportunity to get our crops in the ground. The reality is that farm equipment on the road runs a higher risk than most. Slow-moving vehicles are 3.8 to 4.8 times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision per kilometre on the road than other motor vehicles.

Rollovers most common

Farm vehicle injuries and fatalities are mostly related to rollovers, occuring while entering, exiting, or crossing roadways, veering off the shoulder, and collisions involving a motor vehicle passing while large machinery is making a turn.

It is my hope that we can mitigate risk collaboratively through public education, partnership with municipalities and farmers modelling best practices for road safety.

Over the course of three days at the 2022 Good Roads Conference, the OFA team exhibited and presented, advocating for safe roads for farm equipment, on behalf of our membership.

We discussed road safety and how it pertains to agriculture with municipal councillors and staff from all corners of the province. We aim to continue the discussion with municipalities to ensure roads, overpasses and other infrastructure is designed with farm equipment in mind. 

We understand that road safety is a two-way street, with both farmers and the public having a responsibility in keeping our communities safe.

Orange triangle

The slow moving vehicle sign – an orange triangle – on the back of our equipment, wagon, or trailer, signifies that we cannot exceed a speed of 40 km/h. 

It’s easy to get frustrated when you find yourself behind a piece of farm equipment, but we ask all drivers to slow down, take a breath and practice patience. 

Do not expect the slow  vehicle to pull over on the shoulder – as it could be dangerous for a large piece of equipment and lead to a rollover.

If you want to pass, you are required by law to slow down to the speed of the vehicle and only pass when it is safe to do so. 

We are on the roads to grow the food that feeds the province, country, and world. We want to make it home to our loved ones safely and we want the same for you too.

It is worth waiting the few seconds or minutes it takes to pass farm equipment safely. 

Passenger vehicles incorrectly passing farm equipment results in serious accidents or death. 

Shockingly, eight out of 10 accidents occur during the day and seven out of 10 occur with dry road conditions. Unfortunately, I can personally attest to these statistics. 

Personal experience

In 2019, my son-in-law’s tractor was involved in a serious accident. It was a Tuesday, just before noon, on a flat stretch of road with pristine road conditions. 

A motorist tried to pass him on the inside right and hit his tractor’s back tire. He was ejected from the tractor and hit his head. He spent four days in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. 

He was the primary caregiver to his wife and three young children and is now still unable to work due to crippling headaches, sensitivity to bright lights and noise, and a permanent back injury.

It is important to remember that behind the wheel of that tractor or combine is someone’s loved one. 

Shaving a few seconds or minutes off your arrival time is not worth altering a family’s life forever.

Advice for farmers

For the farming community, it’s vital to conduct a daily 360-degree safety check before you leave the laneway. Ensure your hitches, brakes, tires, and PTOs are maintained and ready for the roads. Additionally, make sure your lights are working properly and that your triangle sign is visible and secure.

Lastly, plan your route accordingly.

When on the road operating farm equipment stay alert, stay on the paved portion of the road, and stay off your smartphone.  Additionally, be aware of other motorists and signal well in advance on busy roadways. To guarantee that you are visible to drivers, lights must be on farm equipment from 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise.

It is important that everyone keeps these safety tips in mind throughout the growing season. Together, we can ensure everyone gets home safely. On behalf of OFA, I wish all Ontario farmers a safe and bountiful plant ’22.

Crispin Colvin