28/08/2014 - Permalink

Take extra care on rural roads during harvest season

Related topics: Community / My area / Partner organisations

News from our partners Safer Roads Partnership in West Mercia

The Safer Roads Partnership in West Mercia, West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police are warning motorists of the dangers that may be present at this time of year as farmers are using the roads more when harvesting and moving their produce.

Agriculture is one of our region’s key industries, and this time of year is very busy in the farming calendar with many crops requiring harvest and transportation, often within a short window of opportunity in order to ensure consumers can enjoy the produce in prime condition.  However, this burst of activity traditionally sees a rise in road collisions, many of which are preventable.

A significant proportion of the collisions involving agricultural vehicles occur on rural roads with 60mph speed limits, and many near turnings into farms.  The typical causes of the collisions are poor overtaking manoeuvres and inappropriate speed, with drivers finding themselves unable to stop in time when presented with a slow-moving or wide vehicle.

A further hazard is caused by mud and debris being brought onto the roads by tractors and other vehicles that have been working in the fields.  In the last three years*, there have been 67 collisions across West Mercia and Warwickshire where mud was recorded as a contributory factor.

Under the Highways Act (1980), farmers and contractors have a legal obligation to ensure their vehicles are cleared of any mud or debris before entering the public highway.  Excess mud on the road is a danger to cars, motorbikes and cyclists, and can change the way a vehicle handles, causing skidding, especially in wet conditions.

Superintendent Lee Davenport, Head of the Force Operations Department, Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police, said:

“Every year we face problems with agricultural vehicles leaving large amounts of mud and debris on the roads during the harvest season.  While the majority of farmers take steps to ensure they keep the roads clear and safe, not all are as diligent.

“We would like to remind farmers and contractors of their responsibilities under the Highways Act.  We have already taken action against offenders who haven’t complied with this legislation, and will continue to take a tough stance against anyone who we believe is being reckless and irresponsible.”

Anna Higgins, Communications Manager at the Safer Roads Partnership, said:

“We appreciate that during this time of year farmers have to increasingly use the region’s roads to transport their crops and that this will affect local traffic at times.  Although many drivers of agricultural vehicles use the roads in a responsible way, we are reminding them to be aware of the impact they can have and consider other road users while they undertake their work.  During busy traffic periods, pull into a lay-by or safe place to allow other vehicles to pass safely, to avoid traffic build-up and prevent unsafe overtaking manoeuvres.

“We would also like to remind general motorists that extra care and patience should be taken during the harvest season when there is a necessity for more agricultural vehicles to be on the roads.  While it can be frustrating travelling behind an agricultural vehicle, it’s not worth getting impatient and putting yourself and other road users at risk with dangerous manoeuvres.”

Drivers of agricultural vehicles or anyone wishing to report any issues regarding debris or mud on the road can contact the following agencies:

Worcestershire:

Worcestershire Hub – 01905 765765

Herefordshire:

‘Streetscene’ – 01432 261800

Shropshire:

Shropshire Council – 0345 678 9006

Telford & Wrekin:

Telford & Wrekin Council – 01952 384000

Warwickshire:

Warwickshire County Council – 01926 412515

* Three-year period refers to January 2011 – December 2013.  During this period, there were 58 collisions in West Mercia and 9 collisions in Warwickshire where mud was recorded as a contributory factor.

The Safer Roads Partnership is part of West Mercia Police and works in partnership with the four local highway authorities in West Mercia (Herefordshire Council, Shropshire Council, Telford & Wrekin Council and Worcestershire County Council); the Highways Agency; HM Courts Service – West Mercia; the two Fire & Rescue Services for Hereford & Worcester and Shropshire; and West Mercia Cluster of Primary Care Trusts.