Agridirect.ie advises road users to relax when stuck behind slow-moving farm machinery this summer.
It’s silage season – know what to expect on Irish roads?
If you live in a rural area or took a drive into the countryside over the last few weeks, chances are you’ve spent some time driving behind heavy machinery. Tractors are a frequent sight on Irish roads at all times of the year, but the summer months see a sharp increase in the volume of moving machinery in public spaces. With the silage season well underway, you will encounter large tractors carrying mowers and bale lifters, or towing balers and wrappers, every few kilometres on most journeys.
A familiar dilemma
For many road users, this creates a familiar dilemma. You find yourself crawling along behind a lumbering Massey Ferguson, trying to overtake on roads that are barely wide enough for one car, and which meander like mountain streams. You immediately start to dwell on the fact that you don’t have time for this delay. You have somewhere to be and time is short. Maybe you’re late for work or you have to collect the kids from school. Your anxiety levels start to creep up, and with this comes the threat of road rage. You feel the urge to lace on the horn or flash your lights. You start to convince yourself that the farmer in the tractor cab is deliberately impeding your progress. The expletives start to flow as you drum on the steering wheel and consider breaking for the narrow gap between the tractor and the road’s margin. You know it’s dangerous, but what else can you do?
I understand all of these sentiments because I am a notoriously cantankerous driver. But anybody who pretends that they have never felt the impulse to take risks when stuck behind slow moving traffic is either lying or has reached an extraordinary level of detachment from the concerns of daily life. Personally, I have a half hour drive to work every morning, on a winding road in an agricultural area. Sometimes, I don’t give myself the half hour I need to reach my workplace. I get held up at home, making lunch, listening to the news or talking to my partner. A 5 minute delay on mornings like that can feel like an unmitigated disaster.
More than once, I have taken risks and been very fortunate not to have had a serious accident. One occasion stands out for me. A few summers ago, I was driving from Leitrim to Galway. On the stretch of road between Williamstown and Dunmore, I got stuck behind a tractor towing a wrapping machine. Now this is not a good road, and for a couple of miles, I couldn’t overtake. By the time the road widened sufficiently for me to pass, I was so worked up that I tried to pass without checking the indicator lights on the wrapping machine. These showed that the tractor was turning right, straight into my path as I tried to overtake. It was a very close shave and disaster was averted not by any action of mine. The tractor driver, who had kept an eye on me and was aware of my agitation, had the wherewithal to brake in time to save us both from disaster. As I passed, he raised a hand and shook his head with a rueful smile. I got the feeling it wasn’t his first time in this position.
A new perspective
That experience prompted me to change my approach when meeting farm machinery on the roads. Now, when I get stuck behind a tractor or other large and cumbersome vehicle, I try to remind myself that farmers are not on the road with the intention of slowing me down (I know that this is a ridiculous and unreasonable idea in the first place, but how many of us feel this way in the heat of the moment?). Farmers are taking tractors and heavy machinery onto the road because they have to be, because they are doing their job. In my experience, once you remind yourself that the person in the other vehicle is also trying to get to work, and that they are doing a very important job, it becomes a lot easier to relax. Once you have done this, take a few deep breaths and remember that a 5-minute delay isn’t going to change that much anyway. In most cases, your boss will understand. A quick phone call to the kids, letting them know that you are on your way, will keep them happy too.
Manage your schedule!
But perhaps the most important piece of advice for motorists using country roads in the summer months is this: give yourself a few extra minutes for car journeys. Change your schedule so that you are leaving the house 10 minutes earlier in the morning. We all know that there will be slow-moving machinery on the roads. It is a certainty, so why feel surprised or appalled when it happens? Instead, let’s use the knowledge to plan our days more effectively and avoid unnecessary stress and increased risk.
And most importantly, road users, let’s give farmers a break!