Be Seen, Be Safe
ohnston County farmers Jerry Don McLamb and W.C. Lee Jr. remember a friend who was hit by a car as he tried to turn his tractor left off a busy road last year. The driver who hit him did not understand the hand signal the farmer gave. Nearly a year later, the man still cannot walk.
McLamb and Lee were among a group of 130 from Johnston County who recently attended the first of several training workshops in the “Be Seen and Be Safe” program. The program, sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, the State Highway Patrol and the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, is aimed at improving safety for farm equipment operators on state roads.
The campaign involves workshops for farm equipment operators in Nash, Edgecombe, Greene, Johnston, Pitt, Wayne and Wilson counties. Participants identified as full‑time farmers are eligible for approximately $200 in supplies to make their farm machinery more visible to other drivers.
In addition, the program hopes to raise awareness among the general public so drivers will notice slow moving equipment on rural roads. A large display featuring “Be Seen and Be Safe” is available for public events.
Ken Bateman, Johnston County Extension director, demonstrated use of a special strobe light for farm equipment. Farm operators who participated in the training received a light and other materials.
Bateman and Sgt. Tom Futrell of the Highway Patrol conducted the training in Johnston County. With data provided by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, they shared statistics on the accidents involving farm equipment.
As one of the state’s fastest growing counties, Johnston experienced 49 accidents involving farm machinery on state roads from 1995 to 1999. Accidents most commonly happen when farm equipment operators are attempting to make a left-hand turn or when a driver is attempting to pass farm equipment on a road.
Participants learned that:
• 67 percent of farm equipment accidents happen on secondary roads.
• 38 percent of such accidents occur from 2 to 6 p.m.
• 79 percent of such accidents happen during daylight hours.
• The highest number of such crashes occurs in May.
• Blame for these accidents falls to equally to both equipment operators and vehicle drivers.
Bateman advised farm equipment operators to use a two-point left turn when turning left off a state road. The turn requires the driver to pull off the road to the right, wait for traffic to clear in both directions and complete the turn.
The safety kits that participants received included the strobe-light kit to increase visibility of farm equipment on the road. They also received reflective tape and updated warning signs for slow-moving vehicles.
Agents participating in the program included Norman Harrell, agricultural agent, Wilson County; Art Bradley, agricultural agent, Edgecombe County; Louie Johnson, agricultural agent, Greene County; Mitch Smith, county Extension director, Pitt County; Bob Pleasants, agricultural agent, Wayne County; and Charlie Tyson, agricultural agent, Nash County; and Bateman.