June 3, 2011

Strange things, tractors. They cost as much as a super car, but one key fits any model from the same manufacturer, making them a cinch to pinch. Their suitability as getaway vehicles post-theft, whilst seriously compromised by their lack of anonymity and limited performance speed-wise, is marginally enhanced by their ability to drive through things and scare the bejeezus out of other road users in a head-on situation – specially at night with those floodlight headlights on.

There is growing alarm, however, over the presence of tractors and other agricultural vehicles (stolen or otherwise) on the roads, both in the UK and in Ireland, where farmers are a growing hazard following the collapse of all other sectors of the economy. “These can often be very large and noisy vehicles,” warns Doreen Nicholas of the UK’s National Road User Forum. “Some are painted in bright colours, such as red, yellow or green, with multiple appendages, and can emerge from obscure lanes or gateways without warning. Many are dirty, and their drivers are sometimes uncouth.”

Ireland’s Road Safety Authority and the Irish Farmers’ Association have teamed up to run 30-second tractor awareness radio ads explaining what a tractor is, why there may be a lot of them about at this time of year, and the important distinction between a small tractor and one that is merely far away. “This is a very busy time of year for farmers,” warned RSA chief exec,” Noel Bratz. “It’s the start of the silage cutting season and I am asking all drivers to be on the look out for tractors, trailers and other farm machinery.” “Be patient,” adds a farmer. “Don’t think about overtaking us – it is not worth the risk.”

But new research from moslem-friendly roadside recovery outfit Green Flag and University College London suggests agricultural vehicles may actually be less of a problem than many suppose. “Drive on minor rural roads for just 80 minutes between March and September and you will end up stuck behind a tractor,” their findings suggest. But… the chances are you’ll only be stuck behind them for between 1.2 and 1.3 miles, adding just 1.2% to your total journey time.

Green Flag’s Henry Tophat agrees with a farmer: “Whilst [being stuck behind a tractor] can be frustrating, getting impatient and undertaking risky manoeuvres to overtake the vehicle on a narrow, rural road is not worth it. With blind bends, narrow roads and overgrown foliage obscuring visibility, overtaking in rural areas can be fraught with danger.”

So there you have it. There may be a quarter of a million of them in the UK alone, their drivers may not always wear a tie, but ultimately tractors are a minor nuisance and barely worth bothering with as a seasonal motoring story.


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