Harvest safety practices keep DeWitt County motorists, farmers safe

• Motorists should slow down immediately upon seeing farm equipment in the roadway

• Farmers urged to limit equipment movement during dawn and dusk

• “Start Seeing Farmers” signs a reminder of safety during harvest

CLINTON — As the weather turns cooler and field crops mature, more farmers will be using rural roads to move combines from field to field and crops from field to elevator. 

Due to the increased activity on rural roads, special “Caution, Slow Down, Share the Road” and “Start Seeing Farmers” signs will soon appear in DeWitt County. Local FFA chapters, Farm Bureau member businesses and farm families are helping DeWitt County Farm Bureau get the message out.

The signage is a reminder to motorists that while farm machinery is clearly much larger than passenger vehicles, it can sometimes be difficult for drivers to determine machines’ speed and trajectory. 

To avoid accidents, Illinois State Police (ISP) say motorists should reduce speed immediately upon seeing farm equipment in the roadway, and should not attempt to pass the farm equipment until it is legal and safe, even if a farmer waves the motorist around. Keep in mind that machinery often travels at around 25 mph. 

“We will move over when there’s an opening,” says Tom Hieronymus, DeWitt County Farm Bureau President, who farms near Farmer City. “It’s much easier for us to get out of the way for drivers but as we all know, patience is a virtue.”

Motorists also should maintain a safe distance when following equipment to remain in sight of the operator, and be patient, ISP says. They also should watch for vehicles, including grain carts and semi-trucks, entering and exiting field access points.

Farmers not exempt from safety message

While motorists are urged to slow down and practice caution while sharing the road with farm machinery, farmers, too, are reminded to avoid movements of farm machinery at sunrise and sunset, as visibility is more limited during these times.

ISP also recommends that equipment operators look for a safe place to pull over and allow cars to pass if traffic begins to back up.

While road safety for motorists and equipment operators remains the key message of roadside signage, farmers must also be aware of their physical health and other safety hazards on the farm during harvest as well. 

This includes watching out for overhead lines, using caution around grain bins, buckling tractor and combine safety belts, carrying a fully charged fire extinguisher in each combine or tractor, and taking breaks.  

Cultivating the Seeds 

of Safety

To keep the conversation moving about farm safety not only during harvest, but also throughout the year, the National Education Center for Agriculture Safety (NECAS) sponsors National Farm Safety & Health Week, Sept. 16-22. This year’s theme is “Cultivating the Seeds of Safety.”

As part of the promotions for the week, a new topic will be featured each day:

• Monday: Rural roadway safety

• Tuesday: Farmer health/suicides/opioids

• Wednesday: Child/Youth health and safety

• Thursday: Confined spaces in agriculture

• Friday: Tractor safety

Videos addressing each of the topics, and daily webinars, can be found on the www.necasag.org website. While most of the topics are at first glance not unusual issues farmers face, what might be surprising is the effort to address the opioid epidemic in rural Illinois, as well as the troubling rise in suicides among farmers.

NECAS says drug abuse in rural communities should be concerning for farmers because it is affecting quality of life, economic opportunity, and rural prosperity. “No corner of our country has gone untouched by the opioid crisis, but the impact of this issue on small towns and rural places has been particularly significant,” the organization says.

If you would like to display a Start Seeing Farmers sign, assist with farm safety programming, or get more ideas to keep farms and families safe year-round, contact the DeWitt County Farm Bureau at 217-935-2126.


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