Harvest is done — before Thanksgiving dinner this year! My family had a decent crop. The equipment mostly stayed together. Everyone got through it unscathed. And now it’s in the rearview mirror.
But me? I’m mad. So angry. Why? Because it was another season with close calls on the roads where some drivers had so little regard for the lives of my family that they made seriously stupid and reckless maneuvers.
My brother drives the combine from one field to another. He was traveling down a road — a rural road — that was somewhat narrow and lined with ditches. As he came over the railroad tracks, he noticed another vehicle moving toward him. While most people are gracious enough to pull over to let him sneak through, this guy had no such intention. Instead he moved closer to the centerline. My brother wasn’t amused so he just stopped and waited (what else could he do?).
The other driver proceeded to roll down the window and shout obscenities before finally moving over so the combine could pass.
Dad had a near miss. He was driving the tractor with the grain cart. He was ready to turn left into a field — turn signal activated — when he saw a car approaching him from behind going way too fast. Without slowing down, she decided to pass him. Luckily dad realized what was happening and managed to abort the turn and slam on the brakes (I’m told the tractor left skid marks).
The woman passed him by going through the corn field and speeding off. She never even slowed down.
It’s infuriating. Unless you have someone in the back seat who is literally about to bleed out unless you endanger the lives of everyone else on the road (and probably not even then), there’s no excuse. How dare you risk the lives of the people I love just because the alternative is a minor inconvenience that may make you three minutes later.
You know what reasonable people do? They slow down. Trust me, there’s no meeting that justifies your behavior.
And honestly, it feels like no one really cares. A couple years ago, my mom managed to record a video of one of these idiots. She was parked on the side of a rural road with the hazard lights engaged. The guys were a small distance away attaching the combine head. A souped-up truck approached, refusing to slow down. He blew past Mom, laid on his horn, and eventually drove into the field to get around the combine.
When Mom later showed the video to a police officer, he shrugged and told her that he couldn’t do anything because he didn’t personally witness it.
That’s a funny thing to say. Because I remember leaving work one day only to reach my car and see that someone had backed into it. The damage wasn’t extravagant. But someone witnessed the accident and left a note with the offender’s license plate. I called the police, who promptly identified the other driver, went to his residence, and gave him a citation for leaving the scene of an accident. Apparently that officer didn’t need to personally witness the incident to do something.
Michigan State Sen. Kim LaSata tried to do something. During harvest ‘19, I shared a story about our farm equipment breaking down on the side of the road. Again, no one seemed to care, especially the other drivers on that road at that time. They whizzed by as my brother sat a couple feet from the road trying to repair the trailer. No one slowed down or moved over.
After hearing the story, LaSata introduced legislation that would require drivers to slow down and move over, if possible, whenever there was disabled farm equipment just off the road. Drivers violating the statute could be ticketed. I knew it wouldn’t solve the problem, but maybe it would give us a chance.
Imagine my exasperation when I found out that the Michigan State Police opposed the legislation. Why? Because among other concerns, it would be too hard for the officers to know whether the farm equipment was disabled or just parked on the roadside.
I mean, seriously, does it matter??
Now I understand the concern, and I know the laws have to be enforceable for the officers. But why can’t people just slow down and move over whenever they see equipment — farm or otherwise — on the side of the road? Why can’t we have common decency when we’re driving? Why are we so callous about other people’s lives?
And it’s even more frustrating to feel like there’s nothing I can do to make the situation better. Like other influencers, I’ve shared the seasonal memes about sharing the road and driving cautiously when farmers are more likely on the road. (Unbelievably, I’ve even had people argue that they shouldn’t have to!) But it doesn’t feel like enough when the stakes are so high.
Maybe, just maybe, sharing and shaming this behavior will move the needle.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.