The motorist goes around the curve in the road at 55 mph and then sees the tractor traveling just ahead. Even if the tractor is going 15 mph, it only takes a few seconds for the car to travel the length of a football field and into a potential collision with the tractor.
Last year in Georgia, there were 462 farm equipment-related collisions on roads with 169 injuries and 10 fatalities, about 10 percent more than in previous years and, unfortunately, a growing trend, said Harris Blackwood, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, at a press conference during the Sunbelt Ag Expo.
In 2011, there were 1,223 traffic-related fatalities in Georgia with less than 10 related to farm equipment. Farm equipment and traffic fatalities represent a small percentage of total fatalities and wrecks on Georgia roads but still just one fatality is 100 percent tragic to someone and a family.
Spring planting and fall harvest bring more farm equipment traveling highways and rural roads as farmers move equipment from field to field, a fast-paced logistical chess match with weather, wagons, drivers and trips to buying points.
Farmers and farmhands in farm equipment and motorists in automobiles of all flavors share the roads. No matter who has the right of way, left of way or up-the-middle of a way, we all can drive the careful way.
We can leave the mobile phone in its holster or on the seat next to us unused as we focus on driving safely. But let’s be honest, we’re not likely to do that or be able to that. The mobile phone has become one of those marvels of technology which seems to make us efficiently busier and more easily distracted and worried by people, places and things not in our immediate surroundings.
And tractor drivers, make sure you have the slow-moving vehicle triangle, the reflective orange one with the red border. Most motorists don’t know what that particular sign means, but maybe it’d be enough shiny glitz to yank a distracted driver to attention before something bad happens.
And when you’re coming over that hill or blind curve on the road, ease to the ditch as far as you can to keep that combine head or implement as far out of the way of the on-coming traffic lane as possible.
He didn't hit us
And as motorists, we can be more patient and careful as we wait in that slow-moving line behind a slow-moving tractor on the highway. Besides, we have our smartphones to keep us company as we wait our turn to pass the tractor.
The dangers are real on the roads. In fact, anyone who drives has more faith in his fellow man than he’d like to admit. Every time we pull out of the house and onto the road, we trust the other drivers to stay in their lanes as they travel toward us -- and we toward them -- at bone-crushing speeds and zoom by us only a few feet away.
My nephew was riding with me the other day. He noticed I popped my finger up from the steering wheel to wave at an on-coming truck traveling the other way in the other lane. He asked me if I knew the person.
“No,” I said.
“Then why did you wave at him,” the nephew said.
“He stayed in his lane and didn’t hit us,” I said.