The state’s largest farming organization is urging motorists to use caution around farm vehicles after a fatal accident Tuesday in Bedford County involving a 75-year-old farmer.
According to police, Ralph Edward Reynolds Jr. of Bedford was making a left turn off U.S. Route 221 when his tractor was hit by a tractor-trailer trying to pass in a no-passing zone.
“We are saddened by the news of Mr. Reynolds’ death,” noted Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne F. Pryor. “This is one more example of why it’s imperative that drivers be on the lookout for farm vehicles on roadways and proceed safely. It is especially important at this time of year, when farmers are moving planting equipment from field to field, often on public roadways.”
The VFBF Young Farmers Committee has been tracking farm-related fatalities since December 2017 and has made highway safety education one of its priorities.
“We are imploring the public to please, please pay extra attention to tractors on the roadways,” said committee chairman Kyle Sturgis, whose family farms on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. “They need to slow down and be patient with farm equipment.”
To support the committee’s safety efforts, Virginia Farm Bureau provided file footage for a new video produced by Drive Smart Virginia to help reduce traffic deaths involving farm equipment and other slow-moving vehicles. A Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles highway safety grant provided funding for the video.
Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia, noted that about 19 percent of U.S. residents live in rural areas, and nearly 50 percent of crash deaths occur in those areas.
“It’s important to be on the lookout for slow-moving vehicles in rural communities and to know how to share the road with them,” said Brooking, who grew up on a farm. “I always worried about my father’s safety as he drove between fields.
“With the help of the Farm Bureau and in coordination with the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, we produced a short training video, which was just released in February.”
Brooking said the video is being added to the Virginia Department of Education’s driver education curriculum website so every public school driving instructor in the state can have easy access to it.
The National Safety Council reports that approximately 15,000 farm vehicles are involved in highway crashes annually. Studies show that 90 percent of collisions between slow-moving vehicles and motor vehicles occur on dry roads during daylight hours, and two-thirds are rear-end collisions. When a fatality occurs, the victim is usually the tractor operator.
Tractors generally travel at less than 20 mph, compared to cars cruising at 55 mph or faster, the NSC reports. Motor vehicle drivers need to be able to identify slow-moving vehicles in time to react safely.