Steamboat Springs As the winter recedes, farmers and ranchers in Routt County are going back on the road. Just like the migrating birds and bicyclists whose visibility increases into summer and fall, farm equipment and farm vehicles on the various roads across Routt County also are increasing. According to a national survey done by Successful Farming Magazine, more than one-third of farmers spend an estimated 50 hours a year moving equipment on public roads. A crash between farm equipment and a car, truck or sport-utility vehicle is five times more likely to cause a fatality. It's time for extra care from the farmer and the general public.
The No. 1 cause of farm equipment and motor vehicle collisions is that tractors travel at slower speeds than automobiles. Sixty-six percent of the motorists cited for such collisions are cited for failure to reduce speed. The driver doesn't realize how quickly they come upon that piece of equipment. This form of incident is on the increase because of the greater number of people who are now living out in the country and commuting along our rural roads.
The second most common collision event is when the farm equipment is making a left-hand turn. Most tractors do not have brake lights and must stop before making a left-hand turn. It is usually then that the motorist may decide to pass the tractor. The third most common collision is caused when a motorist will misjudge the speed of oncoming traffic when passing slow-moving equipment, or they'll misjudge how wide the equipment is. Many more collisions are caused because a motorist doesn't see an implement behind the tractor.
When approaching a car, because there is a standardized location, most people can easily find the signals to help them determine what the car is going to do. Farm equipment doesn't have a standard location for such signals. The signals may be at the top of the back tires or at the top of the cab. Neither location is usually at eye level to the person within the car. In addition, older pieces of equipment do not have signals. Then the approaching car must watch for hand signals.
In Routt County, the roads are not only used by farm equipment and motor vehicles, but by bicyclists also. Because the farm equipment dwarfs a bicycle, sometimes the bicycle following a tractor doesn't register with an approaching motorist. These times seem to be when a bike is following a tractor or when one is passing a tractor. The motor vehicle approaches fast, doesn't see the bike and then the tractor, bike or car has had to go off road to avoid a tragic collision.
Please be cautious and aware of farm equipment and bicyclists on the road. The life you save may be yours, mine or someone you'd like to have known.