In the next month or two, farmers will begin harvesting their crops. During harvest, it is sometimes necessary for farmers to take farm equipment out on the road in order to get from one field to the next. Whether you are in the tractor or in the car behind it, here are some safety tips.
• Use the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem, lights, and reflector tape to ensure that other drives can see you. Keep these visibility aides clean and replace them when faded or broken.
- Avoid major roads during rush hour.
- Install extra mirrors on equipment if not already present. This will help you be more aware of other vehicles around you.
- Turn on your headlights, but turn off the rear spotlights while on the road. The rear spotlights can be mistaken for headlights from a distance.
- Use turn signals or hand signals to indicate which way you are turning.
- Know the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem. This orange triangle with a red outline is the indicator that you are approaching a slow vehicle. Immediately slow down. If you are driving 55 mph and come upon a tractor that is going 15 mph, it only takes five seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between you and the tractor.
- Be patient. Most farm equipment will only be travelling a short distance to the next field or farm. If you follow a tractor that is going 20 mph for two miles, it only takes six minutes; this is the equivalent of waiting for two stoplights in town.
- Yield to wide vehicles. If a piece of farm equipment is travelling in the opposite direction, and you cannot pass safely, stop. Pull off to the side or turn onto a road or driveway so that both of you can get by safely.
- Pass only if it is safe to do so. A farmer may pull over so that you can pass. If the farmer does not pull over, only pass if you can clearly see into the oncoming lane of traffic ahead of you and the farm equipment.
- Do not assume that farm equipment that pulls to the right side is making a right turn or letting you pass. Due to the larger size of farm equipment, farmers may need to make wide left turns. Watch for turn signals or hand signals, and don’t pass until you know which way the farmer is going and it is safe to do so.
For all drivers: Stay alert! It is easy to become distracted while driving. For everyone’s safety, put the phone away.
Kelly Nichols is an Ag Agent Associate with the Frederick County Extension Office. Her areas of focus are small farms and agronomy. Kelly can be reached at 301-600-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.