Share the road

For the Linn County Leader

It’s harvest season in Missouri, and with the crisp temperatures come a larger number of farm vehicles and equipment on rural roadways, it is also the time of year when deer are on the move, pay attention and share the road. This autumn, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety wants to remind motorists to be on the lookout for slow-moving farm vehicles and deer. 

“Please remember that farmers are just doing their jobs when moving equipment from field to field,” said Jon Nelson, chair of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, “It’s important that we be patient and drive carefully around farm vehicles.”

Motorists may not immediately recognize farm equipment on roadways or be aware of the special hazards they present. Lighting and reflector locations on tractors, combines and other farm equipment are different from other motor vehicles and loads may be wider. These may present special challenges to travelers who lack experience driving around farm equipment.

The most common collisions occur when the approaching motorist hits a farm vehicle from behind (rear-end collision), or when a passing motorist hits a farm vehicle that is attempting to make a wide left turn (left sideswipe).

The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety recommends these simple tips when driving around slow-moving farm machinery:

  • Be mindful that it’s harvest season and keep an eye out for machinery.
  • Be patient and remember that farmers are just doing their jobs.
  • Always pass on the left and only when you have clear sight distance.
  • Always wear your seat belt and pay attention to the road. Buckle Up Phone Down.

Not only is it harvest season and there is slow-moving machinery on the road, but this is also the time of year that deer are on the move.

According to a Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) press release, deer behavior changes due to mating season, which may cause an increase in sightings and roadway crossings. Hunting and crop harvesting may result in these animals being in places they aren’t usually seen. Drivers are urged to remain alert. If you strike a deer, move your vehicle to a safe location and call 9-1-1 or *55 on a cell phone and report it.

Last year, drivers in Missouri experienced 3,639 traffic crashes where deer-vehicle strikes occurred. One deer strike occurred every 2.4 hours in the state. In these crashes, there were five fatalities and 348 people were injured. The majority of deer strike crashes occur in October and November each year, with the largest number taking place in November. Although deer strikes can occur at any time, most occur during the 6-6:59 a.m. and 6-6:59 p.m. timeframe.

Remember: Rural areas are not the only place where deer/vehicle strikes occur. Drivers in urban areas of the state should watch for deer as well. When you see a deer, slow down and proceed with caution. Deer often travel in groups--stay on guard after a close call or when you see a single deer. Natural features also affect deer movement. In areas where there are streams or wooded corridors surrounded by farmland, look for more deer to cross roadways. At night, watch for deer eyes to reflect your headlights, which could give you more time to react to their presence.

Drivers are reminded that an attempt to avoid striking a deer could result in a more serious crash involving oncoming traffic. Try to remain calm. Overreacting usually leads to more serious traffic crashes. As soon as you see a deer, the best course of action is to reduce your speed gradually while watching other traffic around you. Other drivers may be doing the same, so be sure to pay attention and always wear your seat belt.

Missouri’s strategic highway safety plan, Show-Me Zero, identifies four key focus areas, distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding and occupant protection, to help eliminate traffic deaths. For more information on the Show-Me Zero plan and to learn how all Missourians can help make the roadways safer, visit www.savemolives.com.