As the planting season approaches, the Iowa Department of Transportation is warning motorists to be aware of slower-moving farm equipment, noting that 12 people were killed in 2012 due to collisions involving cars and trucks.
There were 170 crashes involving farm equipment and cars or trucks last year, which also resulted in 11 major injuries, 35 minor injuries and 40 other possible injuries. Of the 170 crashes, 96 only involved property damage.
The Iowa DOT is urging motorists and farm vehicle operators to exercise caution during the busy spring planting season. The agency also is asking for increasing patience on the part of motorists who will be sharing the road with slow-moving farm equipment.
Farm equipment typically displays a triangular-shaped, red and fluorescent orange slow-moving vehicle emblem. In many cases, the planters pulled by tractors are wider than a lane, requiring motorists to wait until a farmer can safely move to the shoulder of the road.
In some cases, the shoulder may not be too narrow or unable to support a heavy farm vehicle.
Katy Anderson, coordinator of Historic Hills Scenic Byways in southeastern Iowa, called attention to the lack of sufficient shoulders along the state's secondary roads at the April 9 Iowa Transportation Commission meeting in Coralville.
"We have a lot of tourists who want to see rural Iowa and the Amish, so they drive on our secondary roads," Anderson said. "In some cases, there's no where for farmers or the Amish to pull off or very little area along the shoulder to get out of the way of traffic.
"There are a lot of scenic byway areas in Iowa. We're finally working cohesively as a group to leverage our position as state-designated byways to effect some change."
While the DOT is focused on preventing farm equipment-related accidents on Iowa roads, federal legislation to prevent children from performing certain agricultural work deemed too dangerous was scrapped last year.
Facing political pressure from Republicans and farming organizations, the U.S. Department of Labor withdrew the proposed rules due to concern from the public over how they could affect family farms. Although family farms were exempted from the proposed rules, many opponents called them as an assault on family farms and rural traditions.They would have affected minors who were formally employed and on farm payrolls, preventing them from operating heavy machinery, handling tobacco crops, working in grain silos or performing other jobs considered potentially dangerous.