Summer…it’s Time to Mow the Lawn!
Posted on July, 24th 2019
Keeping roadsides groomed is more than cosmetic; untrimmed grass, weeds, brush, or tree limbs limit visibility and safety by obscuring signs, traffic signals, pedestrians, cyclists, and unpredictable wildlife. Roadside vegetation control seeks to improve visibility, increase safety, and promote and preserve native wildlife habitats. The crews who undertake this work are responsible for not only completing these objectives, but also for a safe vegetation control operation itself. Large vehicles are required to complete these tasks, so it is crucial for road crews to make themselves visible to people both on and off the roadways. Some specific situations to check for would be:
Clear sight lines: Grass, weeds, and brush can create visibility issues for drivers. When grass protrudes onto the roadway, it can obscure the shoulder of the road and lead drivers to incorrectly estimate curves and road lengths.
Sign Visibility: Signs should be visible to drivers at all times. Tree branches or brush in front of a sign can hide it from view of motorists. Right-of-way control signs (STOP and YIELD signs) are most critical; however, warning and guide signs are also vital to clear immediately.
Drainage: Weeds and sod can interfere with drainage off of roads; when vegetation overgrows, it can create a ditch on the road and leads to pooling. This pooling is a safety hazard for drivers who may experience unexpected hydroplaning and will damage the long term health of the pavement.
Side Road Visibility: Roadway intersections are one of the leading situations for vehicle crashes. To navigate an intersection safely, motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists require good visibility from all angles. Bush and trees should not be allowed to block a clear vision triangle for anyone entering and intersection.
Roadway agencies are encouraged to develop roadside vegetation management programs to define the best maintenance practices for each location. Such a program may consist of eliminating or controlling vegetation through a variety of strategies including mowing, brush cutting (mechanical and hand), use of herbicides, grazing of livestock, cultivating desirable vegetation, and re-vegetation. While it is important to know your local regulations when dealing with vegetation control, to ensure the safe completion of these jobs here are some basic rules to follow:
- Before starting the job, make sure the “Mowing Ahead” signs are in place if your equipment is going to operate on or over the highway. The distance between the sign and the operation should not exceed 5 miles as per local guidelines and as terrain allows
- Wear protective equipment including safety glasses, a hard hat and reflective clothing.
- Check the area beforehand to locate natural obstacles like hidden rocks, tree stumps, low hanging branches, and overgrown gullies. Take note of any signs, posts, fences, mailboxes, and utility pedestals. At low speeds, obstacles can lift one side of the tractor leading to unsafe conditions
- Mow in the direction of oncoming traffic. Should a missile be projected out from the work site, it will result in less of an impact and provides better visibility.
- Ballast or weight the tractor, especially when mowing on a hillside. Because of the weight distribution of tractor mowers, there is a risk of rollovers when mowing on slopes
- Don’t mow too often. This exposes the crews to traffic hazards more than necessary and can damage the vegetation.
Remember, keeping roadsides maintained for safety and aesthetics is an important issue for all levels of government throughout the country. For more information, check out resources like the Local Roads Research board Handbook for Roadside Vegetation Management.