Students learn rural road safety

Juniata County Farm Bureau hosts FFA members at event

THOMPSONTOWN – Juniata County FFA students were given some road safety tips they can use whether they are behind the wheel of the car or the tractor.

The Juniata County Farm Bureau hosted a Rural Road Safety event at the Mills farm in Thompsontown Thursday. East Juniata and Juniata High School FFA students in grades nine through 12 were invited.

“The purpose of Rural Road Safety Week is to alert drivers that large, slow moving farm vehicles and equipment are once again travelling on rural roads here in Juniata County and across the state. We’re urging motorists to use caution when approaching farm vehicles and be patient if they are delayed,” said Juniata County Farm Bureau member Ray Geissinger who organized the event.

Mitch Scalia, motor carrier supervisor for the Pennsylvania State Police Troop G in Huntingdon told the teenagers making time to arrive at one’s destination is more than just a suggestion.

“It boils down to common sense,” Scalia said.

Scalia said often the person in a hurry to get around a tractor or a school bus is usually always in a hurry because of poor planning.

Getting out of bed in time and making your way out the door with extra time to arrive at school or work is something everyone should do, he said.

“They take off in a hurry because they’re late for work. And it’s not their problem, it’s your because you are in their way,” Scalia said, describing the attitude of those in a rush to veer their vehicle around slower vehicles.

Scalia had also discussed the importance of the teens as drivers to be aware of the slow moving equipment by paying attention.

“This equipment is out even at night time now,” Scalia said.

He reminded them most of the equipment does not reach more than 30 mph.

“Stay back far enough. If you can’t see them in their rearview mirrors, they cant see you.”

April is also Distracted Driving Awareness month, and Scalia reminded students about putting down the cell phone.

Mark Heisey has been the highway maintenance manager of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in Mifflin and Juniata counties since 2010.

Heisey spoke to the students about his position with Penn DOT and his area of coverage, and the impact of cold weather on roads.

In speaking about warmer weather, a major impact is farm equipment travelling on the roadways.

It is not just the importance of seeing the equipment and slowing down. Heisey mentioned how sometimes mud may be tracked on the road from the farm equipment or contractors’ vehicles.

Heisey said the person responsible for dragging the clumps of mud onto the roadway is expected to remove it as well.

“Most of them bring a skid loader out there and take care of it,” he said.

During the summer Heisey said there are often hydraulic oil or diesel spills. Hydraulic spills are the biggest problem, he said, as a six inch leak can saturate into the asphalt and three or four days later following a rain shower, the road may become slippery.

“We keep a triaxle of limestone handy and go out and help with that,” Heisey said.

Heisey also expressed the importance of securing loads this summer when travelling. Many persons who trim trees may put branches on the back of a truck without properly securing them, causing the branches to end up on the roadways.

The most common items found on major roadways such as Route 322, Heisey said, are four by fours of wood.

“How would you like to hit one of those at 70 mph?” Heisey asked the students, adding pallets are another common item that falls onto the roads.

Heisey often ends up on the site of fatal crashes on state routes. They conduct an accident investigation report.

“In my 14 years doing this, I’ve seen about 100 fatalities,” Heisey said with one common theme in these deaths.

The individuals killed did not wear a seatbelt.

Heisey told the students to imagine a Ford Excursion, a relatively large vehicle.

“I’ve seen people who have gone out the back window of those things,” he told the teens, “And they were killed instantly.”

Heisey said in 99 of 100 cases it is likely the buckling of the seatbelt could have saved their lives.

Juniata County Farm Bureau President Matt Matter said this program is geared toward the FFA students because of their new experiences as first time drivers, and also because “They’re usually the ones running the equipment” on their farms.