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Illinois Farm Bureau gives tips for driving during planting season after fatal tractor crash

Tractor, field, farm 5.jpg
Illinois Farm Bureau is advising awareness and patience on the roads following the death of a Heyworth farmer Tuesday.

As planting season nears its end, the Illinois Farm Bureau is advising awareness and patience on the roads following the death of a Heyworth farmer Tuesday. He was struck and killed in his tractor by a semi truck.

One piece of advice given by Rodney Knittel, the assistant director of transportation and infrastructure with the IFB, is avoiding tailgating. That’s smart anywhere on the road, but with tractors pulling farm equipment, Knittel says it’s even more so. The gear being pulled can obscure the operator’s rear view.

“The driver of the tractor implement can’t probably see you being close, whether that’s a semi or a tractor,” Knittel said.

Knittel also says knowing how tractors drive is important to being safe around them.

Farm tractors will typically be driving 20 miles per hour on the road. That’s much slower than the speed limits between 45 and 55 miles per hour typically seen in rural areas.

Tractors also take wide turns. Those wide turns aren’t the only potential hazard, though. It’s also where they’re turning.

“Be very cautious because equipment turns not only at intersections but also into farm fields,” Knittel said. “So sometimes it may look like they’re turning one way but they may be turning the other way. But they have to make room to make that wide turn.”

Knittel says awareness of how tractors operate and practicing keeping a safe distance on the road will help avoid accidents.

But he says these two intangibles are just as important: patience and perspective.

“There’s only one road. You can only have one life,” Knittel said. “We need to share the road and we all need to have that goal to make it home to the family. We just need to slow down in life.”

Regarding the death of Jay C. Fitzgerald in Tuesday’s crash, Knittel says the IFB’s thoughts and prayers are to the Fitzgerald family, and that the bureau will “continue to promote safety in rural America.”

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Jack Podlesnik is a student reporter and announcer at WGLT. He joined the station in 2021.
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