A statewide rural safe driving campaign has been launched by the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
BLOOMINGTON – A statewide safe driving campaign aims to tackle the problem of rural roadway collisions, especially during planting and harvest season.
Roadway collisions have been the second leading cause of Illinois farm-related deaths since 2008.
“Over the last five years, we’ve seen 29 fatalities from rural roadway accidents with farm equipment,” said Eric Vanasdale, senior loss control representative with Country Financial. “Twenty-six of those were to the rural motorists and three of those were to the farmer.”
A grassroots effort to combat the problem began in Adams County and is now being launched as a statewide initiative with the support of the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police.
“The more public we can go with it, the more awareness that we can get out, the more voluntary compliance we can get out of our motorists,” said Trooper Mike Kindhart, safety education public information officer with the Illinois State Police. Kindhart approached Adams County Farm Bureau Manager Shawn Valter about beginning the campaign, and plans to share the idea with fellow law enforcement officials around the state.
The campaign will place large banners along rural roadways reminding motorists “Caution: Slow Down, Share the Road.” It also includes public service announcements and education about SMV (slow moving vehicle) signs.
“I think they say it takes six times of seeing a commercial or something before it really sinks in. By having them displayed throughout the county and in multiple counties, if a person is out driving, more than likely they’re going to see two or three or four of them along their drive, so it’s a very consistent message that they’re going to realize and that we’re trying to point out to be safe on the roads during planting and harvest season,” said Valter.
The grassroots effort began with just two counties in Illinois but has expanded to more than 25. Support is also coming from the Illinois Sheriff’s Association and Growmark.
“We’re working with those counties to get banners to the local FS member cooperatives so that we can make sure that we promote the rural road safety like is intended with this program, so we’re excited about that and we’re looking forward to participation throughout the year,” said Amy Bradford, corporate relations manager with Growmark.
The banners will be displayed during planting season in the spring and then taken down until harvest season in the fall.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.