Why we need to be extra careful on our busy country roads this summer
Our Road Safety Authority expert warns of dangers; farmers have a big role to play too
It was Pat Short of the D'Ubelievables who said that this would be a great little country if only we could put a roof on it.
He was right. You don't need me to tell you it has been a long winter and not a great spring.
Two status red storms, Ophelia and Emma, plus rain. Lakes have fallen out of the sky judging by the amount of rain we've had in parts of the country.
The farming community has suffered greatly. It led to a fodder crisis in parts. The RSA had to issue a notice saying that it would take a pragmatic approach to the transportation of feed for animals because the problem was so acute in some parts of the country.
Well it looks like warmer sunnier weather has finally arrived. The sure sign is when the mass mobilisation of tractors and trailers begins and they take to the fields for the first cut of silage.
Not surprisingly the roads are busy with farm machinery moving from field to yard. They are on the road from early morning to late into the night. Naturally, they need to make the most of any window of opportunity presented by a break in the weather.
It is going to be a busy time for them over the summer months. So we should now be on guard for farm machinery on the road.
In addition to at least two, maybe three cuts of silage, 2.2 million tonnes of grain, oilseeds and protein crops and approximately 1.5 million tonnes of straw will be moving off the fields and into stores and yards.
So it goes without saying we all need to take extra care as the number of tractors, trailers and other farm machinery using the roads increases dramatically.
This can mean getting stuck behind farm traffic on the daily commute. If you do find yourself in a platoon of vehicles following a tractor, please be patient and only overtake when it's safe to do so.
One simple step we can take to remove the stress is to set off earlier on a journey. You know there is a good chance there'll be farm traffic on the road so why not leave five minutes earlier than normal and give yourself some breathing space?
If you are not under time pressure you're less likely to take any silly overtaking risks out of frustration.
We really need to be on the look-out for farm machinery exiting from fields and farm yards too. Expect the unexpected.
Of course safety cuts both ways and farmers are covered by road traffic laws on driver licensing, insurance, vehicle road-worthiness, lighting and motor tax just like other drivers.
Farmers need to be safety conscious too whenever bringing a farm vehicle onto the public road.
While farmers have a job to do, they need to think about other road users.
If the traffic is building up behind, please keep left where possible to allow it pass safely.
Something we get contacted regularly about by people is the debris that gets left behind on the roads from farm machinery.
It is so important to be careful when transporting silage, slurry or grain so that it does not spill on the road and pose a risk. Making sure wheels are regularly washed down to avoid carrying mud and stones onto the public road can help with this problem.
If bringing large farming vehicles onto the road, farmers should consider using an escort vehicle to warn other road users.
The road is a shared space. No individual or group of road users has exclusive rights to the use of the road. In particular, farmers are legitimate road users and are entitled to road space. Of course this does not absolve them from the need to practice good road safety habits.
With some patience and understanding on both sides, we can all make the roads safer for everybody this summer.