Fall brings the change of colors, cooler weather and tractors on the roads.

Farm Safety Week serves as a reminder that it’s a time to slow down and be patient.

Forty-five percent of all U.S. crashes happen on rural roads, despite only 19 percent of Americans living in those areas.

Life on the farm is a dream for many. But it also comes with the pressures of volatile prices, uncertain weather and operating bigger, heavier equipment. The majority of time, farmers work by themselves. One small mishap can devastate families and their community. It seems every farmer we talk to has a close call of their own.

“Last year we had finished up with harvest and we were hooking up this tractor to a piece of tillage equipment,” farmer Jed Schneckloth said. “One of the hydraulics here was backwards, so I went to switch the hoses and he — it was my fault — he wasn’t aware I was back there and I was going to flip this number three and switch it around and he went to back up. And I do have a disability that doesn’t allow me to move as quickly as maybe a normal bystander would, and he started to back up and I tried to get out of the way as soon as I could, but unfortunately I kind of stumbled, fell into the gravel… luckily he was aware enough and he’s been doing this for his entire life, and he looked back and stopped the tractor. We counted our blessings, and luckily nothing major happened, just some bumps and bruises.”

Each day, there is approximately 500 ag-related accidents. The leading cause is tractor rollovers, which includes overturns, runovers, PTO systems and unintended contact with implements.

“The manufacturers have really done a good job of putting the safety stuff on the equipment because they’ve had incidents occur,” Eldridge Fire Chief Keith Schneckloth said. “So they’ve recognized those situations and they’re there for a reason its there to protect all of us.”

Keith adds the best way to avoid tractor-related injuries and death is to always wear your seatbelt, be completely aware of the people and risks around you, and for each tractor to have a rollover protection structure, or a ROPS system in place.

“We’ve been working on some equipment here, and it’s easy to think you’ve done it a million times before, and you’re going through the motions and you don’t always put some of the safety props up,” Jed Schneckloth said. “But there is always a horror story of a gentleman getting pinned in between some equipment or underneath some equipment and it’s not worth risking your life or suffering a major setback for taking that 5-10 seconds. As far as the farmers and the citizens of the community, everyone just needs to slow down and be patient.”

Farming is hard work; pressures build and timing is everything. Despite years of experience, tragedy can happen to anyone. Small changes and taking your time can mean the difference between life and death and coming home to your loved ones each night.