PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” With the spring weather upon us and more people taking drives in the country, beware, as large farm equipment has returned to the highways.
The Jefferson County Farm Bureau held its annual Rural Road Safety Week event at Fezell's County Market Tuesday.
According to the Farm Bureau Web site, "The Rural Roads Safety program was created in 2000 by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. ... â€œRural Roads Safety Week, a joint campaign between the Pa. Farm Bureau, Pa.
Department of Agriculture and Pa. Department of Transportation (PennDOT), is designed to educate the general public and farmers about safety concerns on rural roads, particularly in relation to slow moving vehicles."
"Our objective is to create awareness of the issues on rural roads to slow down when you see a slow-moving vehicle on the road," said Rick Wise of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau.
"Whether it's a farm implement or an Amish buggy, drivers need to slow down," Wise said, adding that farm equipment tends to be wider and bigger and takes up more of the road, so drivers need to slow down until they are able to pass farm equipment at a safe speed.
Wise said all of the roads in this area have horse-drawn buggies and farm implements on them at times, and motorists need to be aware of when they see them.
"The slow-moving vehicle sign, the orange and black triangle, is required to be displayed at the back of the implement and has reflective tape on it that motorists will see in poor lighting conditions," he said.
Shawn Houck, PennDOT public safety officer, said the key to rural road safety is recognition.
"The orange and black triangle alerts you right away that there's a vehicle ahead of you traveling 25 miles per hour or less," Houck said, adding that the key thing for any motorist is to be more alert when driving.
"Expect the unexpected, because that vehicle could be turning to the left or the right," he said. "A lot of times, farmers are hauling trailers that are flimsy in the back and weave down the road."
Houck said farm vehicles could also have a lot of produce on them, which makes them hard to see around.
"People have to understand that agriculture is still the No. 1 industry in the state of Pennsylvania," Houck said. "These farmers are performing a terrific service for all of the people in the commonwealth by providing fresh, nutritious grain products."
If one of these farmers becomes injured or killed, it can put a farm out of business, according to Houck.
"That hurts everyone in the commonwealth when a farmer goes down, which means we have to import more produce from out of state," he said.
Cpl. Joe Dipietro, Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police, said what the members of the Farm Bureau do is fantastic in promoting safety on rural roads.
Dipietro said in addition to the farm implements, Amish buggies and now gas well vehicles dominate rural roads, which is why the state police are appreciative of what the Farm Bureau does to promote rural road safety.
Rep. Sam Smith, speaker of the state House of Representatives, emphasized the dangers of driving on rural roads while distracted.
"These are the types of vehicles that can pop out in front of you, and because they are moving slow and you're driving fast, we need to be aware of them, especially this time of year," he said.