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Tips for driving safely alongside farm equipment

By Jay Stone

Spring is quickly approaching and with it comes the planting season for farmers; a time when ground is prepared and crops are planted. With this and every planting season, our local roads will be shared with farm implements, as farmers move tillage and planting equipment from field to field.
As the borders between urban and rural areas constantly change, it is likely that motorists will encounter large, slow-moving machinery as part of their daily commute. In order to avoid accidents, practicing a few simple rules and having a good sense of awareness while on the road will help prevent unnecessary collisions.
According to the National Safety Council, approximately 1/3 of fatal tractor accidents occur on public roads. The following safety tips will help lower your chances of being a part of this avoidable statistic:
Slow down when approaching farm equipment.
Most farm equipment is designed to travel at speeds less than 25 mph. A car moving at 50 mph has less than 10 seconds to avoid a collision with a tractor moving 20 mph that is only 400 feet away. Additionally, it only takes five seconds for a passenger vehicle traveling 55 mph to close the distance the length of a football field when approaching a tractor moving at 15 mph.

Recognize slow-moving vehicle emblems.
Surveys show that less than 30 percent of drivers recognize SMV symbols and know what they mean. These are located on the back of equipment. When you see the orange triangle with a red border from a distance, this should be your signal to slow down. Also remember, this same emblem can be found on the back of horse-drawn buggies — a sight very common in our area.

Don’t assume the farmer can see you.
Because of the size of most modern farm equipment, operators must spend most of their time looking ahead to keep their machinery safely on the road. Also, we have to assume that large machinery is very loud, so the operator most likely won’t be able to hear you coming up behind them.

Pass with caution.
Equipment operators will often pull to the roadside to allow vehicles to pass, but be aware of the fact that they may also be attempting to swing wide to negotiate a turn. Watch for either hand signals or turn signals to indicate the operator’s intentions. If you attempt to pass a farm implement, be watchful of the vehicles behind you that may also try to pass. Do not attempt to pass unless you can see clearly into the oncoming lane and beyond the equipment you are passing.
It’s important to remember that we are all sharing the roads, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to help keep our roads safe and accident free. Caution, courtesy and road awareness will help both motorists and equipment operators stay safe. By being aware of farm equipment and its limitations, you can help make the trip safe for everyone.

Jay Stone is the agent for agriculture and natural resources at the Christian County Extension Service. Each issue, an agent from the extension office will share useful information about agriculture, 4-H and more.

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