As the summer heats up and we near Independence Day celebrations, we are also getting closer to harvest time for crops in the coastal bend. If you find yourself in rural or even suburban areas of Fort Bend County, you may find yourself bumper to bumper with tractors any time of year. However, harvest time is when you are more likely to encounter the largest farm equipment – combines, pickers, and module builders.
Just like with any vehicle, major injuries or property damage can be one accident away. The farmers in the area often have to move several miles from one field to another, which can lead to encounters with other travelers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, agriculture occupations are ranked in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S. As such, safety is very important and that includes while on Texas roads. Based on data obtained by the Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) shows accidents involving farm equipment on rural and urban roads showed a slight increase from 197 accidents in 2011 to 233 in 2015. In 2011, 146 accidents happened on rural roads, while 51 took place on urban roads. In 2015, there were 170 accidents on rural roadways and 63 on urban roads.
Combines, cotton pickers, and tractors with implements are not especially agile or easy to maneuver, especially when they can be 20+ feet wide and are traveling on county roads just wide enough to pass alone. Challenging a tractor and trying to force them to pull over on the shoulder where the ditches are steep, as with most county roads, can be dangerous for the tractor operator and passing motorists. If you find yourself on a rural or semi-rural road with an approaching tractor or other type of farm equipment, please be courteous, slow down, and try to find a place to pull over and let them by – a drive way, gate entrance, etc.
Additionally, farm equipment is built for power and tractors are not designed to travel at speeds we are used to travelling in cars and trucks. If you find yourself behind a tractor or other piece of equipment on a county road or rural Farm-to-Market road, please slow down and be patient. When the road is wide enough, they will try to make room for you to get by. It is far safer to be patient and wait than to get in a hurry and possibly cause harm to yourself or others.
As we all get to live together in this great country, I ask that if you find yourself meeting a piece of farm equipment on the road, please be kind to those that provide us with food and fiber. They will appreciate your patience when you follow and your courtesy when you meet.