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Motorists, farmers urged to heed road safety this holiday weekend

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OFA Viewpoint.

By Teresa Van Raay, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

The upcoming Victoria Day holiday means a lot of Ontarians will be hitting the road for weekend activities, including cottage getaways and visits to key tourist areas.

This first long weekend of the year is always an eagerly anticipated event, but it also comes at a tough time for farmers as it usually falls in the middle of spring planting season.

That means not only will there be a larger number of cars on the road this weekend, but it’s also a busy time for tractors and other large farm equipment using Ontario’s roads, as farmers move between fields and farms to get their crops planted.

This makes road safety for both farmers and motorists essential to help all of us prevent accidents. Operating large farm equipment on the road runs a higher risk than most at any time of the year, but when roads become busier and traffic gets heavier, all of us have to keep road safety top of mind.

My family and I farm in Huron County where we raise pigs and grow garlic and field crops like corn and soybeans – and our farm is right along one of the main highways into Grand Bend and Huron County cottage country. This means we have first-hand experience with sharing a busy road with motorists while we have to get around with our slow-moving tractors and large farm equipment.

Farm equipment in general is much larger than it used to be, which makes us less nimble on the road than when driving a car. Many rural roads also have narrow or soft shoulders, which makes it difficult if not impossible for farmers to pull off to the side safely to let motorists pass.

We recognize the high-speed pace of today’s world, whether it’s commuting for work, travelling to and from school, or running around for errands, sports and recreational activities – people are constantly in a rush and all of us want to get where we’re going quickly.

But we also need to get there safely, and road safety is a shared responsibility between both farmers and motorists. We all need to make it a priority to take the extra few seconds or minutes to pass farm equipment safely.

Passenger vehicles incorrectly passing farm equipment can result in serious accidents or death, with statistics showing that eight out of 10 accidents occur during the day and seven out of 10 occur on dry road conditions.

The Huron County Federation of Agriculture, with support from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s Revive Fund, has invested in road safety signs that have been placed strategically on busy county roads to help remind everyone to “share the road”. Other local and regional federations of agriculture have also undertaken road safety projects to raise awareness with both motorists and farmers.

To prevent road accidents this spring, here are some top tips for motorists:
• Pay attention to orange triangles on the back of farm equipment. These are slow moving vehicle signs that mean farm vehicles legally can’t go faster than 40 km/hour.
• Watch for indicator lights and remember that a gap between a slow moving vehicle and an oncoming car or truck can close very quickly.
• Plan a pass carefully, be patient and only pass when it’s safe to do so.
• Be kind – wave with your whole hand, not just a single finger. We take our equipment on the road because we have to, not because we want to ruin your day.

As farmers, we also have road safety responsibilities, such as:
• Conducting a daily 360-degree safety check of equipment before leaving the farm and ensuring hitches, brakes, and tires are well-maintained and road ready.
• Making sure lights are working properly and slow moving vehicle signs are visible and secure.
• Taking the time to do things right, such as removing the header off the combine to take up less road space – even for short trips on the road.
• Focusing on the road and not using a mobile device while driving. What applies in a motor vehicle applies while operating farm equipment too – distracted driving is distracted driving.
Let’s all work together to make this long weekend a safe one for anyone on the roads.

Source: Ontario Federation of Agriculture

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