With the boundaries of rural and urban America blending more and more every day, it is important for all motorists to be aware and cautious of farm equipment on the roads. According to the National Safety Council, approximately one-third of fatal tractor accidents occur on public roads.
To decrease the chance of a collision, motorists should follow these six rules:
- Slow down when you see a piece of agricultural equipment. Most farm equipment is designed to travel at speeds of only 15 to 25 mph.
- Watch for slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs: SMVs are required for vehicles traveling less than 25 mph.
- Watch for hand signals. Just because a tractor veers right does not mean the operator is pulling over to allow someone to pass. The size of farm equipment often dictates the necessity of wide turns.
- Pass farm equipment cautiously. Even when passing safely and legally, the turbulence created by a vehicle may cause the machinery to sway and become unstable. Do not expect operators to drive their equipment onto the shoulder of the road.
- Driving with one set of tires on loose-surfaced shoulders substantially increases the risk of turning over.
- Watch for flashing amber lights. This type of light often marks the far right and left of farm equipment. Also watch for reflective tape marking extremities and sides of equipment.
- Remember that agricultural vehicle operators have a right to drive their equipment on the road.
Consider these facts next time you encounter agricultural equipment on the road:
- A car moving at 50 mph has less than 10 seconds to avoid a collision with a tractor moving at 20 mph that is 400 feet ahead.
- It only takes five seconds for a motorist driving 55 mph to close a gap the length of a football field when approaching a tractor moving at 15 mph.
- Nearly half of all incidents between motorists and farm implements involve either left-hand-turn collisions or rear-end collisions.