Friday, July 14, 2017

Oregon Farm Bureau and Sheriff's Office Team Up For Harvest Safety Message (Photo)


News Release from Marion Co. Sheriff's Office
Posted on FlashAlert: July 14th, 2017 5:57 PM
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A blue pick-up truck driving 55 mph slams on its brakes and comes within feet of a giant tractor slowly making its way down a rural road in Marion County. The truck blares its horn and sharply swerves left, aggressively speeding past the tractor and into a blind curve. Thankfully, this was only a staged scene for a video organized by Oregon Farm Bureau and the Marion County Sheriff's Office to demonstrate what NOT to do.

Together the Farm Bureau and the Marion County Sheriff's Office are working together to alert motorists that summer harvest is in full swing in the Willamette Valley -- meaning large, slow-moving farm equipment will occasionally travel on rural roads, moving from farm to field. Marion County Farm Bureau President John Zielinski, OFB Health & Safety Committee Vice Chair Anne Rigor, and representatives from the Marion County Sheriff's Office met at Pearmine Farms in Gervais, owned by Molly Pearmine McCargar and Ernie Pearmine of Marion County Farm Bureau, and talked safety.

"We're reminding drivers to slow down, be patient, and use caution when encountering a tractor on the road," said John Zielinski, president of Marion County Farm Bureau. "This is the time of year when you'll see large combines moving between grass seed fields and smaller tractors driving between fruit orchards." Farmers do their best to avoid moving equipment during high-traffic times, said Zielinski, but during peak harvest season, when the fruit is ripe or the grass seed is at the right dryness, sometimes there's no choice.
With Oregon's ever-increasing population, more people are driving on rural roads than ever before, said Sergeant Todd Moquin, of the Marion County Sheriff's Office Traffic Safety Team. For example, he estimated that the once lightly traveled McKay Road between Newberg and I-5 sees over 10,000 cars a day. Sergeant Moquin's message for drivers: "Slow down. If you're going to pass a tractor, make sure you're making a legal pass, not on a curve, and with plenty of room."

Whether a giant combine or a small orchard-sized tractor, farm equipment is designed to travel at speeds of no more than 25 miles per hour (mph) and must display a reflective, triangular, orange-and-red, slow-moving-vehicle sign if going out on public roads. It can be surprising just how slow 25 mph is on a highway. A tractor that appears to be far on the horizon can end up directly in front of a fast-moving car within seconds.

"If you're driving 55 mph on a highway and come upon a tractor that's moving at only 25 mph, it takes only 8 seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between you and the tractor," said Anne Rigor, vice chair of the OFB Health & Safety Committee and member of Benton County Farm Bureau. "In low light, it's even harder to judge how fast you're approaching a slow-moving farm vehicle," said Rigor.

Promoting rural road safety is a personal matter for Zielinksi, who lost a friend and fellow farmer in a deadly accident. Scott Miller, who served with Zielinski on the Marion County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, was killed in 2014 when a car rear-ended his tractor, which was pulling a trailer. "Too many people underestimate how dangerous it is when you don't slow down or try to pass a tractor recklessly," said Zielinski.
In fact, in 2015, there were 54 traffic accidents involving farm equipment, resulting in 30 serious injuries and one death, according to the Oregon Dept. of Transportation. In 2014, there were 40 accidents with 34 injuries and three deaths.

To provide safety tips for both farmers and motorists, the OFB Health & Safety Committee offers its Rural Road Safety brochure. "The brochure provides tips that help save lives," said Rigor. "It's heartbreaking to hear about injuries or deaths involving tractors that could've been avoided if drivers had simply slowed down or farmers took a few simple steps."
Tips for motorists include:

* If you decide to pass farm equipment on the road, please do so with caution.
* Be watchful of vehicles behind you that may also try to pass.
* If you must enter the oncoming lane of traffic, do not proceed unless you can see clearly ahead of both your vehicle 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 pass if you are in a designated "No Passing Zone" or within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad grade crossing, bridge, elevation structure, or tunnel.
* 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 make wide left-hand turns. If you are unsure, check the operator's hand signals and look at the left side of the road for gates, driveways, or a place the vehicle might turn.
Safety tips for farmers include:
* Oregon law requires a slow-moving vehicle reflector on any machine that travels the road slower than 25 mph. Always point the triangle up, keep the SMV emblem clean to maximize reflectivity, and replace the emblem when it fades, normally every two to 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 lights, but turn off rear spotlights when going onto the road. From a distance spotlights can be mistaken for headlights.
* Be aware of heavy traffic patterns.
* Consider installing mirrors on equipment so you can see motorists around you. Be careful where the mirrors are placed.
* When moving multiple farm vehicles down a highway, drive in a tight convoy to dissuade cars from pulling in between equipment.

Download a PDF of the OFB Rural Road Safety brochure at,
or request as many free copies as you'd like by contacting or 503.399.1701.

Story by Oregon Farm Bureau in cooperation with the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

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