The Safer Roads Partnership in West Mercia is today warning motorists of the dangers that may be present during this time of year as farmers are using the roads more when harvesting and moving their produce.
Agriculture is one of Shropshire’s major industries and this time of the year is a busy time in the farming calendar with many crops requiring harvest and transportation, often within a very short window of opportunity in order to ensure consumers can enjoy the produce in prime condition. This burst of activity, which involves a significant proportion of the UK’s 250,000 tractors taking to rural roads and lanes, sees a rise in collisions involving agricultural vehicles, many of which are preventable.
A significant proportion of the collisions involving agricultural vehicles occur on rural roads with 60mph speed limits, and many near turnings into farms. The typical causes of the collisions are poor overtaking manoeuvres and inappropriate speed, with drivers finding themselves unable to stop in time when presented with a slow moving or wide vehicle.
Recent research by Green Flag Breakdown Cover and University College London (May 2011) showed that motorists will only end up behind a tractor for between two and four minutes for every hour they drive on minor roads, which will add just one-two per cent to a journey time.
A further hazard is caused by mud and other debris being brought onto the roads by tractors and other vehicles that have been working in the fields. This mud can dramatically affect the way a vehicle handles, particularly in the wet, and farmers do have a legal obligation to ensure their vehicles are cleared of mud and debris before entering the public highway.
Vicki Bristow, Communications Manager at the Safer Roads Partnership in West Mercia, says:
"We appreciate that during this time of the year farmers have to increasingly use the regions roads to transport their crops and that this will affect local traffic at times. We recognise and appreciate that most drivers of agricultural vehicles use the roads network in a responsible way but we are reminding all drivers to just be aware of the impact they can have.
We would also like to remind motorists that extra care and patience should be taken during this time of year and that they should be aware that there is a necessity for more agricultural vehicles to be on the roads. Whilst it can be frustrating travelling behind an agricultural vehicle it’s worth remembering that it won’t delay your journey by that much and it’s not worth getting impatient and being tempted to take risky manoeuvres.”
Sarah Faulkner, NFU regional environment adviser, said: “It is an offence to leave mud or debris on the road. However, cultivating and harvesting operations at this time of year will almost inevitably lead to some mud being drawn out of fields. For this reason it is important to have a plan to warn other road users of the hazard and clean the road as soon as possible, throughout the operation if required.
“Having working lights is also a legal requirement to travel on the road and with darker evenings there is an even greater need for good lights to avoid any accidents and ensure you’re as visible to other drivers as possible.
“There is, however, a real need for other road users to bear with the farming community during this time especially given the wet conditions we are currently grappling with and also be careful of farm vehicles when out and about on the county’s roads. The countryside is a working environment and farmers are busy growing and harvesting great food for our tables to exceptionally high standards.”
Any drivers of agricultural vehicles or anyone wishing to report any issues regarding debris or mud on the road can contact Shropshire Council on 0345 678 9006 or Telford & Wrekin Council on 01952 384000 for advice.