New law mandates extremity lights on Ohio tractors

COLUMBUS — There’s a new law on the books in Ohio about tractor lights that’s likely to send farmers scrambling.

      

      By October 2001, all multi-wheeled or wide road farm tractors in Ohio that travel on streets or highways at night must be equipped with amber lights on the back, marking the outer edges of the wheels.

      

      While some equipment dealers have an optional light assembly available for new equipment that will comply, there is apparently no retrokit to install the lights that can be purchased over the counter.

      

      The new measure is designed to make rural roads and highways a little safer for both the farmers and for the motorists who may come up behind them in the dark.

      

      It was a fatal crash in the district of the legislator who sponsored the bill in the Ohio legislature that drove the legislation to be introduced and passed in this session.

      

      Since the intent of the law is to enhance public safety, not to overburden farmers, there is also a tax credit that will be allowed to offset the cost of purchasing and installing such lights.

      

      And, according to Dave Kahler, executive director of the Ohio-Michigan Equipment Dealers Association, he has been informed that when the lights become available, the cost of a retrofit for an existing tractor should fall within the Ohio tax credit allowance.

      

      Farmers will be allowed a credit of half the cost of the lights and reflectors and their installation, up to a maximum credit of $1,000, in one of the two years after the law goes into effect.According to the law, a multi-wheeled tractor is one that has two or more wheels or tires on each side of one axle at the rear of the vehicle.

      

      The law requires that for night travel on public roads, such vehicles must be equipped with and display reflectors and illuminated amber lamps “so that the extreme left and right projections of the tractor are indicated by flashing lamps displaying amber light, visible to the front and the rear, by amber reflectors, all visible to the front, and by red reflectors, all visible to the rear.”

      

      The regulations were written to conform with new standards on lights adopted in October 1998 by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.

      

      These new standards will be in effect on new lines of farm tractors available for purchase by 2002.

      

      The new law takes effect on Oct. 5 of this year, and allows farmers one year to bring their tractors into compliance.

      

      The movement to make farm tractors more visible on the roads has been a growing one in the country as a whole.

      

      Both Illinois and Nebraska have passed laws requiring rear lights. Ohio’s law is based on the legislation in Illinois.

      

      And in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, John Deere Co. has been offering a “Dress Up a Deere Friend” program that provides farmers with information and discount financing to upgrade 1970s and ’80s model tractors with a variety of features, including modern rear lights.

      

      In the last 30 years, there have been 114 tractor-vehicle accidents on Ohio’s public roads, and no year in which there has not been at least one.

      

      Of these accidents, 35 have involved fatalities. Half occurred in the hours of dusk and early evening, and most in the months from May through July and from September through November.

      

      While there were accident victims in all age ranges, the largest group was in the 16- to 20-year-old range.

      

      A check on lighting on tractors at Iowa grain elevators during harvest a few years ago revealed that while front lighting was present and well maintained on almost all tractors, few had good lighting in the rear.

      

      The accident that spurred Rep. Stephen Buehrer of Delta, located in Fulton County west of Toledo, was a fatality that involved a car attempting to pass but not clearing a farm tractor that had four wheels on the rear axle.

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