Pike and Scott County Farm Bureaus recently kicked off their two-county-wide project for the “Slow Down, Share the Road” campaign through the Illinois Farm Bureau. Representatives of Pittsfield High School FFA, Country Financial, the Pike County Sheriff’s Department, Two Rivers FS, Pike County Farm Bureau and Illinois State Police District 20 gathered to announce the local kickoff for the effort to remind motorists of the presence of farm implements on the roadways.
Pike and Scott County Farm Bureaus recently kicked off their two-county-wide project for the “Slow Down, Share the Road” campaign through the Illinois Farm Bureau. Representatives of Pittsfield High School FFA, Country Financial, the Pike County Sheriff’s Department, Two Rivers FS, Pike County Farm Bureau and Illinois State Police District 20 gathered to announce the local kickoff for the effort to remind motorists of the presence of farm implements on the roadways.

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 equipment.

“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 said.

“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 Motorcycles” banners.

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 said.

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.