Keeping Farmers and Drivers Safe This Summer

Longer days and warmer temperatures are a sure sign that summer has arrived in Wisconsin. Another sign of summer is seeing the farmers heading back into the fields and their implements of husbandry (IOH) hitting the roads once again.  

Here are some ways farmers and passenger drivers can stay safe on the roads and in the fields this summer: 

Road Safety Driving Tips  

Summertime always brings more traffic onto Wisconsin roads, including ag equipment. In 2017, Wisconsin recorded 41 farm-related fatalities including 24 that involved transportation. In 2018, Wisconsin recorded 34 total fatalities including 16 that involved transportation. Here are some tips to remember for staying alert and safe on the road this summer. 

Practice Safe Passing: 
Farmers: Always put your ‘slow-moving vehicle’ sign on your equipment before setting out on the road and keep an extra eye out for traffic. If you’re turning onto a road, take an extra look to see if a car is coming around a corner or over a hill.  
Drivers: Remember that you might be able to see the farm equipment driver, but they might not see you in their blind spots. Wait patiently for the equipment to either turn off the road or for a safe and legal place to pass. Until then, reduce your speed and give plenty of space between your car and the ag equipment in front of you.  

Be Alert and Responsible: 
Farmers: Keep an eye out for traffic congestion behind you. This is when people get impatient and make reckless decisions that can cause accidents. If you see multiple cars lined up behind you, find a spot where you can safely pull completely over on the shoulder so they can pass you in a passing zone along a straightaway.  
If it’s possible, plan your transportation schedule to avoid peak traffic hours. If you can hop on the road at a time when there’s less traffic, it will lower the chance of traffic congestion and the risk of impatient drivers. 
Drivers: Stay patient and alert. Don’t rush around farm equipment and do not pass in a no-passing zone. 

Check Equipment Lighting: 
Your manufacturer-provided lights might be enough to get on the road, but it doesn’t mean every car can see your equipment clearly. Check out LED lighting to add to your farm equipment. Most options are inexpensive additions that will make you more visible on the road without sucking power from your equipment. Always remember to use your flashing lights and turn signals when on the roadway. 

Road Safety Driving Tips  

Making Smart Choices 
As farmers are trying to get back in their fields for planting season, there is a chance of running into some soft spots in the ground and getting stuck. If this happens, make sure you’re using the proper equipment and strategies to get unstuck.  

  • Do not use chains- they break at their weakest links if they’re repeatedly yanked and could damage or destroy your equipment.  
  • If you use tow straps, don’t use a running start. It might be how you were taught, but repeatedly using the equipment in that way can cause it to breakdown.  
  • If you must use chains or straps, put a fabricated gate or grate over the back window. That way there’s a protective layer between you and the towing equipment.  

Have a communication plan for everyone working on your property or with you. Who is going where for the day? When will they be back? Who will be with them or nearby if they need help? Hold everyone accountable for their plans and enforce the importance of good communication. Things can change quickly on a farm – equipment break down, tasks take longer than anticipated, etc. If something happens, keeping communication open to let someone know is key and will avoid unnecessary causes for concern.    

Be Prepared
We want to do everything in our power to avoid an emergency, but it is smart to be prepared in the event an accident occurs. Work with your farm or members of your household to come up with an emergency action plan. This plan should be easy to find and posted somewhere everyone can find it. Some things you should include in an emergency plan are: 

  • Who to call in the event of an emergency 
  • Emergency contact(s) 
  • Detailed action plans for fuel leaks, injuries, severe weather, etc. 
  • Be able to provide specific instructions if someone is injured in a field (How would emergency services get to them?) 
  • Include maps of your farm and the surrounding area, if possible 
  • Provide GPS coordinates for the people and equipment who are out working 
  • First Aid Kit 
  • Necessary tools (battery-powered radio, flashlights, batteries, etc) 

At the end of the day (and summer), everyone wants to get home safely. Check with your local Rural Mutual Insurance agent for more farm safety tips and resources.  

LiSTEN TO THE FULL Rural Mutual Roundtable WITH Chris Schlechta, Safety Loss Control Manager

Schlechta shares some of the resources available to anyone that wants to review their safety operations, with particular emphasis on the hectic spring schedule many farm families are facing.