A new public safety campaign spearheaded by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture is asking drivers to be more patient with farmers and more willing to share the road.
“It is a serious matter,” Alyson Eastman, a deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, said of encounters between cars and farm equipment on the state’s roads.
By Friday afternoon, a public service announcement featuring Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts and Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson had been shared on Facebook more than 1,100 times.
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In the PSA, Tebbetts implores drivers to “share the road,” as Anderson says, “Stay alive.”
At the Conant Riverside Farm in Richmond, Ryan Carabeau said the farm has perceived an increase in aggression from other vehicles, and even close calls, when they take their tractors onto public roads to travel short stretches between the farm and fields.
“It's always a concern of ours,” Carabeau said.
A check of state records through the Vermont Agency of Transportation revealed roughly six to twelve crashes a year for the past eight years involving a piece of farm equipment.
Eastman and Carabeau speculated that problems come from a combination of factors, including people busy with rushed schedules, tractors now built larger and harder to see around, and people distracted while driving.
“Our equipment moves, most of it—the tractors—at 15, maybe 20 miles an hour,” Eastman observed. “So when you're doing 40, 50 miles an hour, it comes up quick.”
In a news release about the public service announcement, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture urged motorists to keep a number of behaviors in mind when approaching a farm tractor on the road.
The agency asked drivers to slow down, give the road their full attention, to not tailgate, to pass only when absolutely sure it is safe, and to stay alert for turns.
Farm machinery makes wide turns, the agency noted, and sometimes they turn directly into fields—not just driveways. Left-hand-turn collisions are the most common type of collision on public roads involving tractors, according to the news release.
Ryan Carabeau said farmers across rural America will appreciate the added patience and support of other drivers.
“At the end of the day, we have the same goal as everyone else using the roads, and that's to get home to see our family and be safe,” said Carabeau.