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Oct 1, 2014
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May 2014 Archive for Farm Talk on the Front Porch

RSS By: Grinnell Mutual, AgWeb.com

You face risks as you cultivate crops and raise livestock. We’ll share tips, stories and recommendations to help you protect property and prevent costly losses on the farm. It's our Policy of Working Together®.

Motorcycles ride rural roads: Why everyone needs to share the road this summer

May 28, 2014

As spring turns to summer, rural roads are teeming with a variety of vehicles—cars, trucks, farm equipment, campers, and motorcycles, just to name a few. Whatever you may drive this summer, Grinnell Mutual recommends that drivers of cars, farm equipment, and other vehicles watch for motorcycles and give them space to ride safely on the road.

Share the whole road with motorcyclists.

"Other vehicles on the roadway can assist us and they can hurt us," said Imre Szauter, government affairs manager for on-highway activities for the American Motorcyclist Association.

If you come upon a motorcycle in your lane and want to pass, Grinnell Mutual Director of Commercial Underwriting Pam Bryan recommends giving the motorcycle the full lane while making the pass.

"As a motorcycle rider and a bicycle rider, I learned right away how important it is when I’m in my vehicle to give that two-wheeled vehicle the space it needs," said Bryan. "Some cars move barely over the center line, if at all. Give enough room to pass safely without cutting off the bike. Don’t cut back in too quickly either."

This is especially true for large and high-profile vehicles such as trucks with trailers or RVs.

"Those bigger vehicles are pushing a volume of air and at high speeds they generate wind dams," said Szauter. "When passing a larger vehicle, motorcyclists may not anticipate having an air gust that may push them over to one side of the road."

Riders, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

motorcycleSzauter, a rider for over four decades, recommends being cognizant of your surroundings on country roads.

"In a rural area if you come upon a slow-moving piece of machinery, it may be getting ready to turn into a field. Unless you’re prepared for that, you may have a surprise when the vehicle comes out of the lane or enters your lane from a field. You really need to be looking well ahead for that," she said.

"I am constantly adjusting myself in relation to other vehicles, dealing with the traffic and trying to anticipate what someone is going to do," said Matt Williams, a senior claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual who has also taught motorcycle safety for over 15 years. "When I ride my motorcycle I am a very active, defensive driver. What’s that guy going to do? What is he looking at? Is he paying attention to me? How will I react to what he may do on the road?" 

Keeping a safe distance may help riders avoid trouble on the highway, too.

"As a rider, one thing you want to be careful of is to not get too close to the vehicle in front of you," said Szauter. "Rural roads may have deposits of mud or other materials. While a car or truck may not have a problem straddling or going over something in the roadway, if there is something that you can’t see well enough in advance you may not be able to plan for it." 

Everybody, look. 

"I teach my kids to look left, look right, and look left again," said Williams. "Motorcycles are small. They’re harder to see. You have to actively look for them. A Goldwing or the Harley-Davidson is still a fraction of a size of a Chevy Impala."

"Look well ahead and prepare for the worst," said Szauter. "If you give yourself a cushion to take evasive maneuvers, it reduces the risk while riding."


Life jackets: Three ways to ‘Wear It’

May 23, 2014

Most boaters know they’re required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board for every passenger on their boats. During National Safe Boating Week, Grinnell Mutual recommends that all boaters and passengers not only have a life jacket, but ‘Wear It!’ at all times while boating.

The good news is that today’s life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky style most boaters remember. Some life jackets use inflatable technologies. They may resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack that inflates automatically when immersed in water.

"When there’s an accident or other emergency, valuable time may not be available to locate life jackets for yourself and your passengers, who may include small children," said Larry Gallagher, director of corporate loss control at Grinnell Mutual. "Even for short trips across the lake to visit friends, don’t take conditions for granted."

1. Try it on.

Life jackets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. No matter which life jacket you choose, be sure it’s right for you. Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight. A jacket that is too big may push up around your face while one that is too small may not keep you afloat.

When you put on the life jacket, make sure it is properly zipped or buckled. Raise your arms straight up over your head while wearing your life jacket and ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings, gently pulling up. If there is excess room above the openings and the life jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does not fit properly. A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket.

2. Choose the right one.

Life jackets are available for a variety of recreational activities. For anglers, vest-style life jackets come with features such as pockets and clips to replace the fishing vest. For personal watercraft such as jet skis, life jackets are rugged and buoyant with multiple buckles designed to stay secure through impact with the water. For canoers and kayakers, life jackets have large arm holes to allow ease of movement. 

"Every day I hear about the grim consequences of not wearing a life jacket while boating," said Rachel Johnson, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the lead organization for the Wear It! campaign. "You can still have fun on the water while choosing to always wear a life jacket and boating responsibly."

There are even life jackets for your four-legged friends. It’s helpful to purchase one with a handle on top to easily pull your pet out of the water, if needed.

3. Don’t wait for an accident.

"As a boat owner I have seen accidents where great swimmers, not wearing life jackets, unfortunately have lost their lives," said Gallagher. "In an accident, even great swimmers can get worn out and may not be able to tread water for the length of time necessary to get help."

Of those who died in boating accidents in 2012, almost three-fourths of all accident victims drowned—and 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics.

"Accidents on the water happen much too fast to reach to put on a stowed life jacket," said John Johnson, chief executive officer of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. "It’s important that everyone consistently wears a life jacket while on the water and always boats responsibly." 

On recreational boats, children under 13 years old must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket unless they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin. Check with your local Marine Law Enforcement for the laws where you are boating.

"Prior to leaving the dock a safety checklist should be reviewed," said Gallagher. "One of the most important items on that checklist should be confirming there is an adequate number of life jackets, one for each passenger, and that they are being worn. In time, putting on the life jacket prior to starting the boat motor will become an automatic reflex similar to reaching for the seat belt and buckling prior to turning the ignition key on your car."

For more information

Visit the National Safe Boating Council’s Safe Boating Campaign at safeboatingcampaign.com for more information about safe boating.


Three ways for farmers and drivers to share rural roads

May 19, 2014

From field to table, there are many roads farmers use to bring their crops, produce, and livestock to market. This spring, tractors, planters, sprayers, and trailers will join cars, trucks, and motorcycles on two-lane highways and gravel roads. 

Driving farm equipment on public roads is a top concern for farmers, yet some farmers have no choice but to use a public road to get farm equipment to the field.

"Farmers are working an increasing number of acres," said Lynn Mawe, director of farm casualty underwriting at Grinnell Mutual. "A farmer may use a brand new planter to do some custom farming and plant for other farmers, too. The equipment isn’t just crossing the road to get to a field, it may be on that road for a couple of miles to get to that field. That can be a danger."

According to data from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, more than 40 percent of all rural traffic fatalities occurred on rural roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher. The Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension found crash fatalities in rural counties were nearly twice as high as urban counties. 

Whatever and wherever you drive, Grinnell Mutual reminds you to show courtesy to all the vehicles sharing the road with you.

1. Inspect farm equipment, farmers.

Before taking farm equipment on public roads, farmers should inspect their equipment to make sure motorists can easily see it. 

"Make sure each piece of farm equipment has a slow moving vehicle sign and working lights," said Mawe. 

The Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health recommends adding reflectors and reflective tape to farm equipment as well as mirrors that allow drivers to see traffic behind them. 

2. Farmers and drivers, be aware.

Even without farm equipment, the hills, bridges, and turns on rural roads can present unique challenges for motorists. Many intersections on gravel roads have no stop signs. Dry weather conditions may make roads dusty while wet weather may soften road shoulders. 

"Drivers should be aware of where they are and use more caution on the country roads," said Mawe. "Go slowly so both drivers have enough time to react and pass each other safely."

3. Find a friend, farmers.

"In spring and fall, these rural roads will be used by farmers. It’s their living," said Mawe.

There are certain situations—hauling hay, crossing bridges, or traveling on hilly roads—where visibility for the motorist and the farm equipment driver may be limited. Having an escort vehicle may help to call attention to the farm equipment on the road so that everyone may share the road safely.

"Have someone precede or follow to create a buffer for the farm equipment," said Mawe. 

Caution and courtesy can prevent an accident

"An accident is the last thing farmers want. It’s the last thing drivers want," said Mawe. "In this time when everyone is busy and going places in a hurry, take that little bit of caution. It could save a lot of heartache in the long run."

For more driving safety tips, visit "Preventing Losses" on Grinnell Mutual’s website, grinnellmutual.com

Teach and practice ATV safety on your farm

May 06, 2014

In 2012, ATVs accounted for 353 reported deaths nationwide. It’s estimated that 107,900 injuries related to ATV accidents were treated in emergency rooms, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Roughly 25 percent of these were children younger than 16 years of age.

"We see it with first time buyers of ATVs: they buy it, they bring it home, they hop on, they fire it up, and take off," said Ron Nott, director of claims at Grinnell Mutual. "They don’t think about training courses, they don’t think about helmets, they don’t think about appropriate safety equipment."

"We have had instances where someone has had an injury accident less than a week after purchasing an ATV."

Teaching and practicing safety habits will prevent members of your family from becoming a statistic.

1.  Inspect the machine.

"It sounds cliché, but if it’s been stored all winter you will want to walk around and inspect your ATV," said Nott.

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) recommends inspecting for the following:

  • Are tires and wheels in good condition?
  • Are the controls and cable operational?
  • Does the chain have proper slack and is it lubricated?
  • Is riding gear (including a helmet) available?

2.  Never ride on public roads.

"ATVs are not intended to be used on a public roadway," said Nott. "We’ve had instances where someone is using the ATV in a farm application, riding in a ditch. The rider pops over the road, doesn’t think to check before crossing the road, and is broadsided, leading to serious injuries or fatalities."

"It’s like we were taught as kids: If you’re crossing the roadway, please make sure you look both ways before you cross."

3.  Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle.

"It’s designed for one person for a reason," said Nott. "When you have the extra person on there, it can restrict movement and create issues like accessing the brakes."

4.  Ride an ATV that’s right for your age.

Follow the manufacturer recommendations for minimum age and riders. Children under the age of 16 should never operate an adult-sized ATV (90cc or greater) and children under the age of 12 should not operate ATVs. Supervise riders younger than 16.

"I was a kid once, too," said Nott. "Sometimes kids try to do things with ATVs that they shouldn’t do."

5. If you’re a first-time owner, educate yourself.

"It’s the old axiom: read the manual," said Nott. "Follow the instructions and recommendations from the manufacturer. They’re there for a reason. Look at them and follow them."

"If you’re buying an ATV and it’s your first one, I would strongly encourage you to check into the appropriate riding courses in your area for safety."

To sign up for an ATV RiderCourse, call toll-free at 800-887-2887 or go to http://www.atvsafety.org/. For more tips for using your farm and recreational vehicles safely, visit "Farm Talk on the Front Porch" at grinnellmutual.com. 

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