Webinar seeks balance and safety for farm equipment on the roads.
For drivers in Southwestern Ontario, one of Canada’s busiest farm belts, the mix of farm equipment and regular traffic can be especially dangerous.
In Norfolk County, a 21-year-old man died recently when the farm tractor he was driving was struck from behind by a pickup truck.
Three years ago, two drivers — one in Elgin County, the other in Lambton — died within hours of each other after colliding with farm equipment.
The OPP doesn’t track crashes involving farm equipment on regional highways, but Canada’s largest farm group is stepping in to tackle the issue.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, representing more than 46,000 farm families in the province, recently ran a webinar on the rules of the road for farm equipment and has it archived on the organization’s website.
Collisions between regular vehicles and farm equipment are on the rise, partly because farmers are buying land farther afield and travelling farther to work those areas, said Dean Anderson, an agriculture adviser with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.
“I think it tends to be because our farms, as farmers are trying to expand, they’re buying acreages but they’re not the next-door neighbour,” he said.
Peter Jeffrey, who led the OFA webinar, said being visible on the road is one of the most important things farmers can do to prevent collisions.
“Making sure the required lights are present and in working condition and that you use them,” said Jeffrey, a senior farm policy researcher with the OFA.
Sharing the roadway is also important, Jeffrey said, so oncoming drivers have enough room to get by. No matter how large the farm equipment, its driver is obligated to give other road users their laneway.
Regular drivers also need to be aware that driving farm equipment on roadways is legal, Jeffrey said.
“It’s recognizing that farm equipment has a right to be on the road and that it’s moving considerably slower than the rest of the traffic,” he said.
He noted farm equipment often turns off roadways onto lanes that other drivers may not recognize as road entry points, such as openings to fields.
With the busy spring season in the farm belt, Jeffrey said now is a good time to underline safety.
He said distracted driving — now, one of the worst causes of deaths on roadways — plays a role in collisions with slow-moving farm equipment.
Vehicles equipped with a slow-moving sign aren’t allowed to go faster than 40 km/h, which means drivers not paying attention and going at highway speed come upon them much faster than upon other vehicles.
“The bigger trouble, that’s starting to become our big issue . . . is distracted driving. We’re getting a number of incidents where public vehicles are just running into the back end of farm equipment,” Anderson said.
Article courtesy of Laura Broadley, St. Thomas Times-Journal