PITTSFIELD, Ill. — With many of its roads underwater and
others threatened by the rain-swollen Illinois and Mississippi rivers, it might
be a while yet before some motorists have to contend with slow-moving tractors
pulling planters from field to field.
But it wasn’t too soon for Pike County Farm Bureau to kick
off its local “Slow Down, Share the Road” project, a statewide campaign from
Illinois Farm Bureau to help motorists coexist safely on roadways with farm
“We would like to see the county Farm Bureaus hold their own
press conferences right before planting and harvest to remind motorists,” said
Peggy Romba, program manager for Illinois Farm Bureau.
Illinois Farm Bureau kicked off the statewide “Slow Down,
Share the Road” campaign in mid-March. The campaign to remind motorists of the
presence of large, slow-moving farm equipment on rural roads is a cooperative
effort with Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Department of Transportation and
the Illinois State Police.
The program started in Adams and Madison counties and caught
on in neighboring counties.
Mike Kindhart, a trooper and safety education officer with
Illinois State Police District 20, was on hand at the statewide campaign
announcement in March. He also was on hand April 19 in Pittsfield for the Pike
County local kickoff of the campaign.
Kindhart said that distracted driving remains the top
problem for motorists.
“The major problem we have, this is not only farm equipment,
but it comes into play a lot more because of the speed that farm equipment and
implements of husbandry travel, when it’s 25 miles per hour or less, we get
motorists with the distractions that we have in a vehicle today,” he
“Things are so much more on the fatal side than they ever
have been before. If we don’t get motorists to understand to put down the
distractions in the vehicle and focus on the task at hand, it’s going to become
even more of an issue with these slow-moving farm vehicles out there.”
Kindhart emphasized that drivers whose attention is directed
away from driving and from the road continues to be a major factor in accidents
and fatal accidents. He noted that texting and driving is against the law for
all drivers, regardless of the type of vehicle they are driving.
“Divided attention truly is what we are worried about the
most. It’s a proven fact that no matter what it is that has taken your mind away
from the roadway, you end up with tunnel vision, which doesn’t allow you to scan
the roadway from left to right or ditch to ditch or anything else to stay
focused on the task at hand,” he said.
Drivers will start seeing the “Slow Down, Share the Road”
large banners that are one of the primary tools of the campaign. Those banners
were designed and made by the same firm that designed the “Start Seeing
Kindhart said the two campaigns have some common ground.
“It’s kind of the same thing because we also need
motorcycles to be seen. Motorists need to be more aware, and motorcyclists need
to realize that they can help us a lot, too. It’s the same thing with farm
safety,” he said.
“Our farm equipment is big, it’s slow, but I think, for the
most part, farmers are cooperative enough that they will do their best to allow
the traffic to get around them.”
Another cornerstone of the campaign is to urge farmers to
have the familiar, orange slow-moving vehicle triangle placards on the back of
all farm equipment that will be using the roads and to have proper lighting on
any farm vehicles.
“That’s a major concern for us that those slow-moving
vehicle signs be posted at the rear of all those farm vehicles, whether it’s a
vehicle that’s being pulled or towed or the power unit itself,” Kindhart said.
Emphasis on the campaign will be during planting and
harvest, when farm implement traffic increases on roads.
“I think our major concern for farmers is the use of the SMV
signs and also the lighting. For the regular motorists, it is to realize that
during two certain times of the year, during planting season and harvest season,
we see an increase of farm equipment out there,” Kindhart said.
“We need to realize it is a fact of life. We are an
agricultural state, and it is a part of the way of living around us.”
He said all drivers, including farmers, need to be
especially aware and careful in areas where visibility may be impaired by hills
and blind curves, and he used the counties in Illinois State Police District 20
as a prime example.
“We don’t live in a flat area around here. That brings to
mind that when you’re on a rural road that is curvy or hilly, coming to the
crest of the hill and not being able to see that oversized machinery on the
other side of the hill or even coming around a curve, for both drivers, sharing
the road is the only way we’re going to achieve the goal of zero fatalities,” he
While the banners likely won’t be appearing in large metro
areas, Kindhart said drivers in those areas should be aware, when driving in
rural areas, that they may be sharing the road with unfamiliar farm implements.
“In Cook County, this is not really a major concern, but it
is our major concern when people from Cook County are traveling in our rural
counties. Those drivers then need to be aware of the same things,” he said.