Traffic experts know that it isn’t just speed that causes crashes but rather the difference in speed between two vehicles. In Franklin County, two contributors to speed differential are agriculture operations (farms) and Amish families. Both operate slow-moving vehicles on our local highways at speeds normally less than 25 mph, along with cars and trucks traveling at speeds 55 mph or higher – thus the potential for dangerous situations.
Sgt. Bernie Kennett with the New York State Police Troop D in Oneida, prepared valuable information on slow-moving vehicles. He showed that if the driver of a truck was traveling at 55 mph and because of a curve or hill didn’t see a tractor traveling in the same direction until the truck was only 400 feet from the tractor, it would reach the tractor in less than seven seconds. If the slow-moving vehicle was an Amish buggy, the truck would reach the buggy in 5.7 seconds.
According to Kennett, the National Safety Council says there are approximately 15,000 crashes each year in the U.S. involving slow-moving vehicles. More than two-thirds of the collisions involved being struck from behind and 90% took place in the daylight.
In Franklin County, there have been a number of recent crashes involving farm vehicles and buggies. Vehicle versus buggy crashes often include serious injuries or fatalities. And, less than two years ago a tractor-trailer crashed into a farm tractor pulling a manure spreader just west of Malone on State Route 11B.
Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) section 375 (36) requires farm vehicles and other machinery, including road construction and maintenance machinery “designed to operate at 25 miles per hour or less, traveling on a public highway during day or night, whether self-propelled or used in combination, shall each separately display a Slow-Moving Vehicle emblem as specified in paragraph (a) of this subdivision.” Furthermore, if the slow-moving vehicle is being transported by another vehicle at speeds above 25 mph, the slow moving vehicle sign must be covered.
For Amish or Mennonite drivers of buggies, every vehicle drawn by animals shall display on the rear either: (1) a slow-moving vehicle emblem, or (2) a lighted lantern with a red lens at least four inches in diameter, the center of such lens to be 42 inches above the ground, the lantern to be near the left edge of the vehicle, and at least 72 square inches of a high quality white or whitish-gray reflective tape.
Farm equipment and horse drawn equipment operating on a public highway must always follow the rules of the road that are applicable to all vehicles.
Knowing that there are numerous slow-moving vehicles in our rural county, drivers must always expect that around the next curve or over the next hill you might come upon a slow-moving vehicle, and if you aren’t paying 100% attention to your driving, you just might run into the back of a farm vehicle or buggy.
Driver distraction and/or excessive speed is often involved. When a driver at highway speed comes upon a slow-moving vehicle he/she can be caught off guard at how fast they close on the slower vehicle. Don’t let it happen to you.