Driver beware

We recognize National Farm Safety and Health Week this exciting time of year, kicking off a busy and potentially dangerous harvest season.
Bringing in the bounty from area fields is a rewarding yet stressful phase of ag production, ripe with opportunity for injuries if we’re not paying close attention. A little reminder, no matter how many times we’ve been through this annual fall ritual, can be helpful.
The rate of fatalities in agriculture continues to decline, but still remains the highest of any industry sector, according to preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These figures are especially relevant during harvest season, as farmers put in long hours under the stress of weather delays, equipment breakdowns, and high operating costs. Indeed, there is an added stress factor this year knowing that commodity prices aren’t where they need to be.
And it’s not just area farmers who need to focus on safety this time of year. Motorists should be especially patient and alert when they come upon trucks and large equipment on the roadway. Visibility is a challenge in those big rigs and they can’t just stop on a dime. Drivers, especially teenagers not experienced with the heightened dangers of harvest season, need to slow down, drive defensively, and keep a positive perspective on the situation.
Traffic is especially heavy around Aurora West these days. With both ethanol plants now running and the Aurora Cooperative/Pacific Ethanol partnership in full production mode, the whole 50-acre complex functions as a well-oiled machine. Add to that already heavy daily traffic the added trucks, combines and trailers on the road during harvest season and you get a potentially dangerous commute. So pay attention, especially around that Highway 34 intersection and all roads leading to and from what has become a dynamic agribusiness epicenter.
Speaking of rural roads, I am reminded as well of the dangers lurking at intersections out in the country this time of year. I was out taking pictures last week and had to slow almost to a stop at intersections where visibility is totally blocked or severely reduced by corn. It’s a beautiful sight, but it does require gearing down in the name of safety.
For rural Nebraskans, this year’s farm safety message hits the nail firmly on the head -- “Farm safety is not a slogan, it’s a lifestyle.”
Kurt Johnson

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