Maryland Soybean Board Seeks Changes to Improve Road Safety

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The Maryland Soybean Board wants to minimize auto crashes involving farm vehicles and farm equipment.

The Maryland Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state.

The Maryland Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state.

Farm vehicles and equipment must travel public roads in order to reach outlying fields and to transport products to market or processing facilities. We want to improve safety on rural roads for our farmers and our neighbors in the community.

Auto crashes involving farm vehicles or equipment can be costly both in terms of property damage and injuries, and in some circumstances, result in fatalities. The Maryland Soybean Board (MSB) wants to minimize these occurrences.

"We've had many farmers report of incidents where they had to drive off the road to avoid a vehicle trying to unsafely pass them with oncoming traffic heading their way," commented Travis Hutchison, Chairman of the Maryland Soybean Board. "Farm vehicles and equipment must travel public roads in order to reach outlying fields and to transport products to market or processing facilities. We want to improve safety on rural roads for our farmers and our neighbors in the community."

MSB conducted a study to research the prevalence of farm equipment related accidents and investigate potential solutions. Hutchison announced the release of the Maryland Rural Road Safety Study at the Maryland Commodity Classic on July 25.

Study Results
Findings showed that the majority (<70%) of farm vehicle crashes (FVCs) were listed as property damage crashes, while roughly 28% were injury crashes and slightly less than 2% of FVCs were fatal crashes. The most common result of FVCs were rear-end accidents or single vehicle accidents.

The number of FVCs are growing every year. They most frequently occur June through October. Over 75% of FVCs occurred during daylight hours, with only 16.5% occurring in the dark. Fewer than 10% of FVCs took place during dawn or dusk light conditions. Over 72% of FVCs occurred in clear weather, while 9% occurred during cloudy conditions and 9% in precipitation (rain, sleet, or snow).

Most FVCs occur on two-way undivided roads (52.8%), followed by two-way divided highways with barriers or medians (21.9%). The largest number of incidents occurred on state highways (38%), followed closely by county roads (30%).

Recommended Actions
"Education for farmers to know how to best prevent accidents is one of our recommendations, as this will be a continuing issue with Maryland's population growth," continued Hutchison. "It's also imperative that non-farming public understand how to safely travel roads where farm equipment is present."

Recommendations for public programming, inclusion of farm vehicle safety in driver's education training, and education campaigns targeted to spring planting and fall harvest are several ways identified to improve the public's understanding of rural road safety.

Studies of road characteristics found that FVCs are more likely to occur on roads with speed limits over 50 mph, curves, high traffic density, and/or smaller lanes/road widths. The report identifies how roadway design, maintenance and improvement efforts can attempt to mitigate these problems. Recognizing farm vehicles in the state Strategic Highway Safety Plan would help bring awareness to the unique needs of operating farm equipment and reduce injuries on Maryland roadways.

In the spring, the Maryland Farm Bureau, Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland State Highway Administration worked on posting road signs that warn of tractors and slow-moving farm equipment. This is a beneficial strategy that MSB would like to see expanded, particularly during spring tillage and fall harvest when agricultural traffic is greater and near locations such as rural storage facilities or markets.

"We commend the efforts underway and invite more partners to help in the effort to lower the accident rate on Maryland roads," Hutchinson concluded.

The Maryland Rural Roads Safety Study is available on the Maryland Soybean Board website.

Maryland farmers plant about 500,000 acres of soybeans each year, and the crop generates approximately $200 million in value to the state.

The Maryland Soybean Board is funded by the national soybean checkoff program, which assesses one-half of one percent of the net market value of soybeans at the first point of sale. The board consists of ten volunteer farmer-directors and directs funds for research, marketing and education programs to benefit the Maryland soybean industry.

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Susanne Zilberfarb
Maryland Soybean Board
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