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Keep harvest time one for celebrating

ROAD SAFETY

State agencies have some valuable tips for motorists and farmerworkers on how to stay safe.

MOTORISTS

Be watchful of vehicles behind you that may also try to pass.

If you must enter the oncoming lane of traffic, do not pass unless you can see clearly ahead of both you and the vehicle you will pass.

If there are any curves or hills ahead that may block your view or the view of oncoming vehicles, do not pass.

Do not assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right or is letting you pass. Due to the size of some farm implements, the farmer must execute wide left turns. If you are unsure, check the operator’s hand signals and check the left side of the road for gates, driveways or any place a farm vehicle might turn.

FARMERS

n Georgia law requires you to place a slow moving vehicle reflector on any machine that ravels the road slower than 25 mph. Always point the triangle reflector up, keep the emblem clean to maximize reflectivity and replace the emblem when it fades, normally every two or three years.

Mark the edges of tractors and machines with reflective tape and reflectors. Consider installing retrofit lighting on older machinery to increase visibility.

Turn on your light, but turn off spotlights when going onto the road.

Avoid the highway during rush hour and bad weather. Do not drive before sunrise or after sunset.

Consider installing mirrors on equipment to enable you to be more aware of motorists around you.

It’s getting to be the time of year when nearly every community has a celebration that dates back to practices of centuries — harvest festivals.

But that also means it’s the time when rural Georgians sometimes get a little taste of what residents in more populated areas deal with every day — traffic congestion.

The difference is ours doesn’t need a large number of vehicles. All you need is one car with an impatient driver following a farm vehicle with a slow moving vehicle triangle on back. On a two-lane road, that can go on for a while.

The instances of this are going to increase in coming weeks. The latest crop progress report, sent out Monday by the Georgia field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, shows that as of last Sunday, only 10 percent of the state’s cotton had been harvested and 19 percent of peanuts, both major crops in our region.

Last year, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Governor’s Office for Highway Safety, there were 300 collisions involving motorists and farm equipment drivers on Georgia roads. Those crashes resulted in five deaths, and many of the wrecks resulted in serious injuries the occupants of the passenger vehicles and the equipment operators. Also, state officials note that in 2010, there were 1,249 traffic-related deaths on Georgia roads. Of those, 30 percent occurred on rural roads, compared to just 19 percent in metro Atlanta.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, GOHS Director Harris Blackwood and Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall are planning meetings around the state Oct. 14 — including ones in Tifton and Early County — as part of farm safety week to remind motorists and equipment operators that everyone needs to share the roadway.

“We may think of farm safety as only applying to working with chemicals, livestock or equipment on the farm itself. It is important for motorists and farmers to remember that farm safety includes our highways as well. This important message needs to get out to all Georgia drivers,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said.

The best defensive driving measure? Patience.

Most equipment drivers are courteous enough to pull over to the right and allow vehicles to pass them. But even if a driver gets stuck behind a tractor traveling at 20 mph for two miles, state officials say, the motorist loses only six minutes.

It’s also important to drive cautiously this time of year. Cresting a hill or coming around a curve at 55 mph, you cover the distance of a football field every five seconds when you come up on a farm vehicles traveling at 15-20 mph.

A little common sense and patience can make for a safer fall, which should be a season for celebrating our agricultural heritage, not a time for mourning an untimely and preventable death.