Five people died in highway crashes involving farm vehicles last year, prompting the state departments of Public Safety and Transportation to warn motorists to use extra caution now that the fall harvest is under way.
In 2006, two people were killed in crashes involving farm vehicles.
The number of people injured also increased last year. In 2006, 62 people were hurt. In 2007, the number of injuries rose to 84.
In last year's fatal crashes, three deaths occurred among farm vehicle drivers or occupants; the others were drivers or passengers of standard vehicles. Improper passing by motorists was the leading factor in crashes involving farm vehicles, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
There were 139 such crashes in 2007, 11 more than in 2006.
"The increased severity and higher number of crashes show clearly that motorists must drive with greater care," Bob Winter, the Minnesota Department of Transportation's operations director said in a news release. "During the harvest season, the state's highways are busy with trucks hauling goods to markets or to processing plants at all hours of the day, every day. In addition, traffic often swells with wagons, combines and other slow-moving equipment that motorists may encounter."
Officials from the Department of Public Safety urge motorists to buckle up, drive at safe speeds and pay attention to avoid death or serious injury behind the wheel.
"Motorists need to give farm vehicles and haul trucks extra space and recognize that these larger vehicles often travel at slower speeds," said Cheri Marti, DPS traffic safety director. "Take extreme caution passing these vehicles; their size can obstruct oncoming traffic, especially on two-lane roads where they most often travel," she said.
Marti added that motorists should watch for fallen debris from harvest or farm vehicles. It is safer for motorists to brake or drive through the debris rather than veering into oncoming traffic or off the road, she said.
"We call it the 'rural rush hour,' but the harvest lasts for several weeks," Winter said. "Please give farm equipment operators a little extra room, stay alert for slow-moving vehicles and watch for trucks making sudden stops."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.