Lights and SMV Emblems Alone Don't Stop Fatalities

Hoosier Perspectives

Another life lost in a farm equipment accident on the road.

Published on: September 23, 2013

For the second time in two years, a car collided with a combine at an intersection, resulting in a fatality. Last year it happened in Tippecanoe County. Three people in the car, including two teenagers, died. This year it happened in Huntington County. The driver of the car that hit the combine was killed.

It's up to the courts and law enforcement to assign blame and figure out who did what. But the fact remains, too many accidents with farm-related equipment are happening on rural roads.

Bill Field, Purdue University safety specialist, recently released the 2012 farm fatality report for Indiana. The number of fatalities on Indiana farms and rural areas was 26, up from 16 in 2011. This year he did not count roadway accidents in the farm count. They were counted in 2011. If he had included them, the 2012 number would have been 32, double that of 2011. Obviously, there are still deaths occurring in 2013.

Field says government agencies are raising their eyebrows and asking questions, both at the state and federal levels. Different methods of reporting mean that different agencies get different counts. However, most of them understand the problem is not going away.

"Too many times we hear people say 'I've done this a hundred times before and nothing happened,'" Field says. "We've got to quit talking like that, especially if it is a dangerous activity in the first place. What matters is being safe the next time you do it, not what happened in the past."

It only takes one miscue to cause an accident, he notes. Failure to look back one more time before crossing a road with machinery, misjudging the speed of oncoming cars, forgetting how long it takes for your tractor or combine to cross the highway – all these can lead to potentially fatal accidents. When it comes to performing operations like these, there is no room for error. You've got to be on target the first time, every time.

GPS tells you where you are in the field. Auto-steering guides you in the field. On-board cameras can even help you see what's behind or to the side, depending upon where you mount them. Safety lights should make it easier to be seen. Slow moving vehicle emblems still help for those following you. But the bottom line is that no one has yet invented a device that overrides human error.

Bad things happen to good people. Make sure something bad doesn't happen to you this fall. You can't live in a bubble, but you can do everything within your power to do things the right way – the safe way – during harvest.