PENN YAN — After weathering another upstate New York winter, Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike is embracing the nice, early spring weather, as are many others.
He just enjoys it with a little more apprehension than most.
With more tractors and farm equipment on the road and headed to fields for plowing, cultivating and planting, Spike is reminding local residents — and others driving in the county — to be aware of slow-moving vehicles commonly referred to by police as SMVs.
“Planting time and harvest time are the periods of more SMVs on the roadways,” Spike said. “People from places and locations that are not rural have no idea what it’s all about here — sharing the road.”
Farm machinery is supposed to have an orange/red reflective triangle indicating speeds of less than 25 mph. Spike said if the vehicle is going 25-40 mph, it must have a speed indication symbol (SIS) emblem.
“Motorists need to understand the importance of sharing the road with this equipment that is traveling at a slower pace,” Spike said. “Typically, rear-end collisions can occur when a car encounters an SMV from behind, and the motor-vehicle driver fails to perceive the ‘closure collision time,’ causing a dangerous situation to occur.”
Over the last decade, Spike has traveled the state and conducted PowerPoint presentations for police agencies and first responders on the dangers of cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and tractor-trailers sharing the roads with SMVs, which includes horse-drawn Mennonite and Amish buggies, and bicycles.
Spike said about 80% of collisions involving an SMV are during the daylight hours when the SMV is hit from behind. He added that it takes a passenger vehicle going 55 mph only 7 seconds to go 400 feet and hit a tractor traveling approximately 15 mph.
“Motorists need to immediately slow down when encountering the SMV triangle symbol and be alert for an unexpected turn into a field,” Spike said. “Patience really is a virtue in these cases, and people should not pass until it is safe and legal to do so.”
Spike said distracted driving also plays a role in crashes on country roads.
“Rural area driving requires full attention and focus,” he said. “Cell phone use and texting is illegal and dangerous, and it’s important to wear seat belts, observe the speed limits and warning signs, and be aware of animals, especially deer and livestock. When traveling across rural New York state this spring, we encourage motorists to slow down when approaching farm equipment and all SMVs.”