With roadway accidents involving farm vehicles in Wisconsin resulting in losses totaling about $8 million per year, the circumstances that lead to those incidents deserve attention, according to Cheryl Skjolaas, the University of Wisconsin Extension Service's agricultural safety specialist.
Skjolaas spoke at the "Implements of Husbandry: The Road Ahead" information program sponsored by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Extension Service offices in east central counties. The program was held in conjunction with the state legislature's consideration of some changes to rules on farm vehicle travel.
Sharing the road safely requires education of both farmers and the public in many cases, Skjolaas indicated. She called on farmers to do what's required in order to alert unaware drivers and prevent crashes.
Because of the speed difference between the ordinary motorist and slow moving farm equipment, that equipment should be marked with reflective signs and/or lights that can be seen at up to 1,000 feet, Skjolaas pointed out. Another concern is the great differences in the roadways on which farm vehicles travel, she added.
Skjolaas reviewed the existing requirements and highly recommended practices on slow moving vehicle signs, headlamps, tail lights, turn signals, flashers, beacons, and flags (on wide equipment). Take the perspective of the motorist, she advised.
Operators of farm equipment should be trained on those points, Skjolaas noted. She mentioned the child labor laws and the tractor safety training that is required for 14- and 15 year-olds who will be operating tractors.
There is also a distinction, particularly on needing to have a driver's license, between driving a tractor when the purpose is farm work or when it is merely used as a means of transportation, Skjolaas pointed out. A question was also raised about what rules apply to tractorcades of antique units or for fund-raiser drives.
Skjolaas reported that the the spring posting of road weight limits had begun in southern Wisconsin by the third week of March. Regardless of the time or place, she urged farmers to contact their local government officials when they notice roadway problems that deserve attention.
A woman in the crowd here asked why the onus appears to be placed on farmers when the portion of roadway accidents in Wisconsin involving farm equipment is very small and when farmers are not responsible for the accident in most cases.
The speaker cited five-year statistics, which indicated a total of 16 fatalities, 314 injuries, and 511 property damage incidents involving farm vehicles on roadways. Those accounted for .06, .21, and .12 percent of those statistical category totals over the past five years, she noted.