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Guest View II

Thursday, May 2, 2013 by JOHN BERRY Special to The Press in Opinion

Farmers ask for public's patience during planting, growing, harvesting seasons

One of the primary reasons many enjoy living in the Lehigh Valley is the quality of life afforded by agricultural communities.

Open space, wildlife habitat and ground water recharge are some benefits of thriving farms.

Perhaps more significant is the vast amount of safe and wholesome food we can choose from to feed ourselves and our families that is made readily available because of our local farm families' efforts.

Our regional farmers understand the last thing a motorist wants is to be stuck behind a farm tractor, moving at a slow speed.

These farmers provide an abundant, nutritious food supply and want to make sure motorists know the last thing they want to do is slow down other drivers on the road.

In recognition of Rural Road Safety Week, (April 14-20) events were held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Transportation, and the Pennsylvania State Police.

"We ask you to be patient with us," farmers say. "We try to avoid rush hour. We want to use as much caution as possible."

Drivers need to keep their guard up throughout the planting, growing and harvesting seasons by reducing speed and being more aware of other motorists.

Accidents can be prevented if farmers and motorists look out for one another on rural roads. If motorists hear this message and follow safe driving tips, costly accidents can be avoided and lives can be saved.

According to PennDOT's crash data reports, there were 88 crashes and two fatalities involving farm equipment in Pennsylvania in 2012.

"One of PennDOT's main priorities is to ensure the safety of the motoring public," said Deputy Secretary Bradley L. Mallory. "That priority includes large farm equipment and rural roads. Rural Roads Safety Week reminds us all to take proactive measures to protect ourselves and others. I urge all motorists to buckle up, slow down, and stay alert when driving."

Farmers are legally allowed to operate farm equipment on Pennsylvania roads and they must display the Slow Moving Vehicle Emblem, an orange colored triangle with a red border, on the rear of all vehicles or equipment that consistently travel at speeds of 25 mph or less.

"The importance of obeying traffic laws on rural roadways is great. Motorists should exhibit the same level of care and caution on these roads as if they were traveling on the interstate. Rural Roads Safety Week is a great reminder for motorists to do just that," said Trooper Adam Reed, public information office coordinator with the Pennsylvania State Police.

During the next several weeks, our local land stewards will be especially busy as they till the soil, plant this year's crops and continue to care for livestock.

In appreciation for the contribution they make to our food system, perhaps we can practice a little patience if we get delayed in our travels by farm machinery using the common roadways.

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Editor's note: John Berry is the Lehigh County 4-H extension educator for Penn State Extension.