The reminder comes as Pennsylvania farmers are returning to their fields for spring planting. Each year, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau partners with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania State Police to spread the message of staying safe on rural roads during the height of the spring planting season.
“Farmers make the safety of other motorists a top priority when we must move equipment on the roadway and we ask that drivers help keep us safe as well,” said Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert. “We don’t want to cause an inconvenience to anyone and will often pull over to allow others to pass when it’s safe to do so. We just ask that drivers remain patient when following farm equipment and keep a safe distance. By slowing down and using caution and commonsense, drivers can avoid costly crashes and save lives.”
PFB held a live demonstration and news conference at Mar-Anne Farms in Berks County Tuesday along with host farmer David Wolfskill, local PennDOT and state police officials, and the Highway Safety Network, which partners with PennDOT to reduce crashes on Pennsylvania roads. PFB also held a virtual news conference Thursday along with PennDOT, Pennsylvania State Police, and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture leaders to share the message statewide. County Farm Bureaus across Pennsylvania also hold local events in their communities promoting safe driving on rural roads.
“Rural roads serve as connectors for both farmers and rural residents. They are essential infrastructure that facilitate marketplace interaction, business growth and opportunity,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said. “Rural Road Safety Week is an important reminder for both farmers and residents of the importance of being conscious and safe when traveling on our rural roads.”
According to preliminary PennDOT data, there were 82 crashes involving farm equipment in Pennsylvania in 2020, resulting in nine fatalities and six suspected serious injuries. In total, there were 24,690 crashes on Pennsylvania rural roads last year, resulting in 445 fatalities, further underscoring the need for safety on rural roads.
“Safety is one of PennDOT’s main priorities,” said PennDOT Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula. “We must all use caution when driving on rural roads, especially in the spring and summer months when farm vehicles are most common on these roadways. Please avoid distractions, obey traffic laws, and wear your seat belt for a safe drive.”
“It is your responsibility as a driver traveling on our scenic rural roads to be prepared to encounter all types and sizes of farm equipment,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “Remember to obey posted speed limits, don’t drive impaired or distracted and always buckle up.”
Farm equipment can legally be operated on roadways, including at night, but farmers are required to follow certain safety guidelines depending on the size of equipment moved. All farm equipment that travels at speeds less than 25 miles per hour is required to have a Slow-Moving Vehicle emblem (an orange triangle with red outline) on the back of their equipment.
If drivers see the Slow-Moving Vehicle emblem, it is a sign to slow down immediately. It takes only five seconds to close a gap the length of a football field if a vehicle is driving 55 miles per hour and a tractor is moving at 15 miles per hour. Drivers should be alert that farm equipment may be turning at an unexpected place, such as into a field, and may be making a wide left turn if it pulls to the right. Always be sure the oncoming lane is clear and visible before passing large equipment and never pass in a no-passing zone or within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad grade crossing, bridge, elevated structure or tunnel.
PFB has resources available to aid in your coverage of Rural Roads Safety Week. Visit www.pfb.com/ruralroadsafety tips for drivers and farmers, b-roll video of farm equipment operating on the road, our Rural Roads Safety Week brochure and video from both the live demonstration and virtual news conference.