By KRISS NELSON
GOWRIE – John Frederickson, a Gowrie-area farmer and Webster County Farm Bureau board member, said he has witnessed firsthand the negligence of drivers when it comes to meeting him in a slow-moving vehicle.
He recalled the night he was driving down the road with his combine and a six row corn head when tragedy almost struck.
“I was going slow and I could see the lights coming up from behind. I was going to try to get over to give them room to pass,” he said. “I looked down through my right-hand window and the car was right next to me. It was at that point, it was a wonder that I, and they all, didn’t get killed.”
Frederickson said the driver of the vehicle that passed him that evening on the shoulder of the road chose to not use any caution towards his slow-moving vehicle, not only passing him illegally, but also at a fast speed – potentially not knowing what was ahead of them; a mailbox that could have been attached to a steel post or even possibly a bridge.
“If they had hit something, spun around and gotten under my tire, I had been killed and they would have been killed,” he said.
In order to help decrease the chances of drivers colliding with farm equipment and other slow-moving vehicles, the Webster County Farm Bureau hosted their second annual driver’s education event, featuring large farm equipment that drivers in rural Iowa will most likely come into contact with while on the road, for Southeast Valley (SEV) driver’s education students.
“After the public response we had from last year, we feel it is a program worth while of pursuing,” said Steve Peterson, Webster County Farm Bureau president.
Landus Cooperative and K.C. Nielsen, of Harcourt, supplied a sprayer, semi truck and trailer, combine and a tractor with a grain cart.
The equipment was lined up with vehicles placed behind them. Each student had the opportunity to climb in, use the mirrors and see if they could see the vehicle.
“These kids will see the car behind the combine. They come up, I show them the mirrors and they ask, ‘Who moved the car?'” said Frederickson. “We have a huge blind spot behind us and they just don’t realize it until they get up into the seat.”
Although Southeast Valley is considered a rural school, many of the students aren’t familiar with farm machinery.
“These kids just haven’t been around this equipment,” said Jim Hay, with K.C. Nielsen, of Harcourt. “It really gives the kids a perspective on the size and how far back a person needs to be and what it takes to get around them. It’s truly hazardous.”
“We’re trying to give them an experience that most of them will probably never have so they are able to understand what little you can see and just how big these pieces of machinery are,” said Peterson. “We’re giving them the chance to learn how they will interact with farm equipment.”
“I think the biggest thing is just to get the kids exposed to what it is we are dealing with. What we can and cannot see,” said Dave Seil, Webster County Farm Bureau board member.
Driver’s education instructor Jessica Froisland believes the event is a learning experience that will stick with her students and fits perfectly into her curriculum.
“We talk about blind spots quite often and how different it is for each vehicle and it gets to the extreme when we get to these vehicles,” she said.
Frederickson said it’s all about using common sense.
“We are slow, we don’t move very agile and our visibility is blocked,” he said. “We just hope that we are educating them, and this is only a small amount of the drivers, but they really don’t grasp what it is until they physically get up there and see what is going on and how big the equipment is.”
“If this can save an accident from happening, or save a life, it is well worth it,” said Peterson.
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