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Cayuga County Officials Urge Drivers to Share the Road

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As farmers gear up for spring planting season, Cayuga County officials are reminding you to share the road with slow-moving vehicles.

Members of the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office, Farm Bureau, and Cornell Cooperative Extension, along with local farmers and first responders, held a press conference at Patterson Farms to kick off their 2024 Share the Road campaign.

Citing a New York State Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health statistic stating crashes involving farm machinery can be five times more deadly than those not involving agricultural equipment, Sheriif Brian Schenck said that, through the initiative, he hopes to reduce the number of crashes between vehicles and farm equipment or horse and buggies in Cayuga County and beyond.

“It’s my goal to reduce crashes in our community and beyond by supporting this initiative and to bring attention to crashes that are preventable and more likely to cause injury or death,” said Schenck.

He added that drivers need to use caution when approaching and passing slow-moving vehicles as it is often difficult for operators of farm machinery and carriages to see behind them. Also, it is not legal to pass slow-moving vehicles in a nonpassing zone.

Schenck was quick to point out that safety is not just the responsibility of those driving passenger vehicles.

Farm vehicles and carriages travelling under 25mph must properly display the slow-moving vehicle sign – an orange triangle – and must utilize appropriate lighting if operating after dark.

Sheriff Schenck exits a tractor after taking it for a drive with John Patterson. (Ed Vivenzio, Finger Lakes News Radio)

John Patterson is the President of the Cayuga County Farm Bureau and owner of Patterson Farms. He said the Farm Bureau works with farmers to make sure their tractors and equipment have properly functioning lighting and that the slow-moving vehicle signs are in their proper locations.

Speaking as a farmer, he said his farm has seen two accidents in the last 30 years involving collisions.

“We’ve had two accidents with injuries where people have passed us when we’re trying to turn left into a field and run into the farm equipment or [were] run off the road,” said Patterson.

He reiterated the message that patience can literally save lives.

“If people can remember to slow down and pay attention to what’s going on around them, we can all get home safe and sound,” Patterson added.

Cayuga County Farm Bureau President John Patterson. (Ed Vivenzio, Finger Lakes News Radio)

Dan Welch is the Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County. He said his organization has the important role of helping to teach the next generation of farmers.

“Throughout the state, just like here in Cayuga County, this time of year we run a youth tractor safety course that teaches 14-16-year-olds how to safely operate that equipment, and like many rural communities, their first job is going to be on a farm… We want to make sure they get home safely to their families when their workday is over,” said Welch.

Welch added that, as the size of farm equipment increases, it may be difficult or impossible to pass a vehicle on certain roads.

“So, also be cognisant of that in a passing zone, you might not have the room you think you do. [Equipment] sticks out quite a bit and, as others have mentioned, the operator may not be able to see you that well,” he continued.

Cayuga County CCE Executive Director Dan Welch. (Ed Vivenzio, Finger Lakes News Radio)

Joseph Tyler is a farmer who has spent the last 25 years working at El-Vi Farms in Newark. On September 20, 2019, his tractor was hit from behind by a dump truck while turning left, ejecting him from the vehicle.

“I was one of the blessed ones,” Tyler said. “I’m still here to talk about it.”

Tyler was hospitalized for three days, out of work for eight weeks, and, to his recollection, required roughly six months of physical therapy.

He encouraged the public to be patient and pay attention to their surroundings while also reminding farmers of the importance of proper lighting and signage on their vehicles.

Joe Tyler. (Ed Vivenzio, Finger Lakes News Radio)

This press conference kicks off a media campaign by the sheriff’s office, Farm Bureau, and partners reminding everyone to share the road.

On Tuesday, three children were injured when a pickup truck struck a horse and buggy in Locke.

Looking out the rear window of a tractor towing farm equipment. (Ed Vivenzio, Finger Lakes News Radio)

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