West Mercia Police and partner agencies are reminding all road users to take extra care on rural roads in Herefordshire this autumn and are asking motorists to be patient around agricultural vehicles during this important season as harvest continues.

Agriculture is one of the region’s key industries and this time of year is very busy in the farming calendar with many crops requiring harvest and transportation, often within a short window of opportunity in order to ensure consumers can enjoy the produce in prime condition. However, this burst of activity traditionally sees a rise in road collisions, many of which are preventable.

A significant proportion of the collisions involving agricultural vehicles occur on rural roads with 60mph speed limits, and many near turnings into farms. The typical causes of collisions are poor overtaking manoeuvres and inappropriate speed, with drivers finding themselves unable to stop in time when presented with a slow moving or wide vehicle.  Since the start of 2019, there have been 3 fatal, 2 serious injury and 9 slight injury collisions in Herefordshire involving an agricultural vehicle.

A further hazard is caused by mud and debris being brought onto the roads by tractors and other vehicles that have been working in the fields. Under the Highways Act (1980), farmers and contractors have a legal obligation to ensure their vehicles are cleared of any mud or debris before entering the public highway. Excess mud on the road is a danger to cars, motorbikes and cyclists and can change the way a vehicle handles, causing skidding, especially in wet conditions.

Superintendent Gareth Morgan, West Mercia Police said: “We’d like to thank farmers for their hard work and long hours during the harvest season. We all have a valuable role to play in road safety and while the majority of farmers take steps to ensure they keep the roads clear of mud and debris, not all are as diligent. We would like to remind farmers and contractors of their responsibilities under the Highways Act, and we will continue to take a tough stance against anyone who we believe is being reckless and irresponsible, this also includes other motoring offences such as mobile phone use.

“We are also asking farmers to ensure they are not driving agricultural vehicles on the roads with an obscured field of vision. In simple terms, if there is a front implement on your tractor and it obscures your vision, you could be liable for prosecution.

“General motorists are being encouraged to take extra care and patience on rural roads during the harvest season.  While it can be frustrating travelling behind an agricultural vehicle it’s not worth getting impatient and putting yourself and other road users at risk with dangerous manoeuvres.”

Herefordshire Council and Balfour Beatty Living Places support safer roads in Herefordshire. Preventative actions to be taken to mitigate potential actions being enforced by your local council.

What you must do:

  • Everything possible to prevent mud being deposited on the road. This includes cleaning mud from vehicles, as far as practicable, before they are taken onto the road.
  • If there is a danger of mud being accidentally deposited on roads, use ‘Slippery Road’ signs with a ‘Mud on Road’ sub plate to alert other road users.
  • Clean the road as necessary during the working day and always at the end of the working day.
  • Ensure that labour and equipment is available and is suitable for the soil and weather conditions present.
  • Where a contractor is used, ensure that prior agreement is reached on who is responsible for mud on road issues (signage, cleaning, etc) and ensure that adequate public liability insurance is in place.

What you should do:

  • Be prepared to hire in equipment – check availability in advance.
  • Keep to your own farm roads and minor roads whenever possible.
  • Keep to low speeds to help retain mud on the vehicle.
  • Keep a written record of your decisions on whether to deploy signs and/or to clean the road.

Anyone with concerns of excessive mud on the road that is presenting a hazard to road users should call Balfour Beatty Living Places on 01432 261800 (calls are monitored 24/7). They will assess the risk and take the action required to return our roads to as safe a state as we can. For more information on reporting road problems, visit www.herefordshire.gov.uk/roads-1/report-problems-road  Alternatively report to West Mercia Police on 101 or online at www.westmercia.police.uk

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said:

“The Environment Agency is working with land managers to reduce soil run-off in Herefordshire. Soil run-off enters road drains and ditches, carrying sediment and nutrients into our rivers. Under the Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 soil run-off is a form of pollution.

“If you witness soil run-off entering drains, ditches or watercourses please report this to the Environment Agency’s 24/7 Incident Hotline on 0800 807060.”