How road users and farmers can work together to keep roads safe
Our Road Safety Authority expert this week urges motorists not to become frustrated if trapped behind slow-moving machinery during this busy time in the farming year
One of the sure signs that summer has finally arrived is when you see tractors and trailers out in the fields for the first cut of silage.
The action usually kicks off around the middle or end of May. Last year it was late, after the June bank holiday if memory serves me right. Who could forget the rain last spring? It made life a misery for farmers.
Well it looks like the roads are about to get busy again with the silage cutting season due to get under way in earnest this week.
Indeed, it's going to be a busy time on the roads for farm machinery over the coming months. In addition to the 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 that we all need to take extra care as the number of tractors, trailers and other farm machinery using the roads increases dramatically.
If, like me, you live in the country, this will mean getting stuck behind farm traffic on the daily commute. It's inevitable.
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 lookout for farm machinery exiting from fields and farmyards too.
Of course, safety cuts both ways and farmers are covered by road traffic laws on driver licensing, insurance, vehicle roadworthiness, lighting and motor tax just like other drivers.
Farmers need to be safety conscious, too, whenever bringing a farm vehicle on to the public road. While they have a job to do, they need to think about other road users. If the traffic is building up behind, keep left where possible to allow it pass safely.
Something we get contacted regularly about is the debris left behind on the roads from farm machinery. It really is so important to be careful when transporting silage, slurry or grain so that it does not spill on the road and pose a safety risk. Making sure wheels are regularly washed down to avoid carrying mud and stones onto the road can help.
If bringing large farming vehicles on to the road, farmers should consider using an escort vehicle to warn other users.
The road is a shared space. No individual or group of road users has exclusive rights to its use. 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.
A little patience and understanding can make the roads safer for everyone.