NFU Mutual and Police urge drivers to take care
15th May 2023
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NFU Mutual and Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership urge drivers to take extra care as summer harvest expected to bring rise in collisions with agricultural vehicles
- May to September is the busiest time for farmers harvesting silage, hay and arable crops
- Latest NFU Mutual claims data shows that collisions between agricultural vehicles and third parties are 52% more likely between the start of May and the end of September
- Farmers, motorists and other road users urged to respect rural roads to avoid unnecessary danger
As farmers begin the harvest season and agricultural traffic increases, leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is urging all rural road users to take extra care over the coming months.
The harvest season is already underway in many places, with livestock farmers making their vital first cut of silage to build stores to feed cattle through next winter. Silage cutting is followed by hay making, generally from June onwards, with arable crop harvesting taking place through July and August.
Harvest season brings a greater need for all road users to respect their fellow road users and the hazards common on country roads, says the leading rural insurer. The next few months will see higher volumes of agricultural traffic than in Autumn and Winter, including many tractors pulling heavy silage and grain trailers or wide agricultural machinery.
The latest claims data from NFU Mutual shows that collisions between agricultural vehicles and third parties were 52% more likely between the start of May and the end of September 2022 than in any other months. On average, there were 423 of these accidents per month during the silage cutting, hay making, and harvesting season, compared to 249 per month between October and April.
As well as an increase in agricultural traffic, the summer months also coincide with the school holidays and a greater amount of leisure traffic, with road users not necessarily used to rural roads, which can further increase the risk of accidents.
The increase in agricultural vehicles in the road coincides with the sunnier weather and school holidays to greatly increase the volume of traffic on rural roads during this time.
Jade Devlin, rural road safety specialist at NFU Mutual, is encouraging rural communities and visitors alike to remain aware of tractors, trailers, and other agricultural machinery on the road:
“With silaging underway in many parts of the UK, we’re beginning to see more tractors, trailers and large agricultural machinery such as combine harvesters on our rural roads.
“Unfortunately, our claims data shows that accidents involving these agricultural vehicles and third parties are over 50% more likely in the harvesting season, so we’re sharing some advice on how everyone can stay safe on rural roads this spring and summer.
“Agricultural vehicles are generally large, wide and slow, which can tempt road users to overtake, but it’s vital that you remain patient and only overtake when it’s safe to do so – when you can see a clear road ahead, there a no field openings, and you have space to pass.
“Farmers and contractors cannot drive too quickly, but they will generally either be going a short distance to an adjacent field or will – and should – pull over to allow built-up traffic to pass. Motorists and cyclists should be patient, give agricultural vehicles room to turn and not drive too closely to them, which can be dangerous and can obstruct your view before overtaking.
“It’s important to remember that rural roads are vital arteries for our agricultural industry, allowing farmers to bring in the harvest which helps feed the population, as well as valued spaces which allow us to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
“Mutual respect from those who use rural roads for work and for pleasure will ultimately help keep our motorists, cyclists, horse riders and walkers safe this harvest season.”
Reiterating the importance of staying safe on rural roads this summer, Inspector Jem Mountford from Warwickshire Police Roads Policing Unit said:
“Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. With more people using country roads during the summer months, it is important we are all patient and show respect to other road users.
“If everyone does this, then we can reduce the number of collisions and injuries on these roads.”
NFU Mutual’s guide to respecting rural roads during this year’s harvest season:
All road users
- Give plenty of space when overtaking. Vulnerable road users, such as walkers, runners, horse riders and cyclists, should be given as much room as motorists where possible.
- Always check for other road users, particularly at the entrance of fields and junctions.
- Be patient with fellow road users and only overtake when it is safe for all road users.
- Consider where you park to avoid blocking field entrances or obstructing the road for wide agricultural machinery, such as combine harvesters, as they will often need to drive across two lanes.
- Be aware of mud on the road. Rural roads are essential to our farming industry and therefore some mud will be dragged from fields to the road.
- Familiarise yourself with the Highway Code.
- Avoid unnecessary distractions like looking at your phone or listening to music through headphones, allowing you to be aware of your surroundings.
- Ensure all equipment is road worthy and pay particular care to things like trailers which may not have been used for months. Check brakes and indicators and make sure you have reflectors and a beacon for your vehicle. Use the Tilly Checklist to inspect your trailer.
- Be aware of vulnerable road users or hidden junctions, making contractors aware of these junctions and commonly-used walking, cycling and riding routes.
- Familiarise yourself and your contractors with the speed limits for your vehicles.
- If your agricultural vehicles leave mud in the road, remember to clean it up.
- When turning, indicate in plenty of time and check more than once for road users on your inside.
- Be respectful to fellow road users, but only allow them to pass when it is safe to pull over.
Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists
- Speed limits are not targets. Always drive appropriately and remember rural roads are likely to have hazards such as tighter carriageways, blind corners, and animals in the road.
- Pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders should consider wearing appropriate clothing which enables them to be seen.
- Respect that rural roads are vital to our farming industry and expect to encounter tractors, farm machinery or animals in the road.
- Signal correctly and in plenty of time, whether you are a motorist, cyclist or horse rider.