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Tips for Safely Sharing the Road with Farm Equipment

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Farm equipment
Photo: Ronald Plett

Every spring and fall, farmers take to the road while planting and harvesting the crops we eat every day. But when you’re driving along an open country road and encounter a massive, slow-moving piece of farm equipment, it’s important to understand how to keep yourself and your fellow road users safe. Here’s a look at some tips for sharing the road with farm equipment.

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Best practices for sharing the road with farm equipment

  • Be visible: Farm equipment is large, loud, and cumbersome — so farmers have their hands full when navigating the roads. It’s entirely possible that a farmer may not be able to see your vehicle. Consider giving your horn a quick honk to alert the farmer of your presence.
  • Pass carefully: Farmers may pull over for you to pass safely. However, if you feel you must pass and the farmer doesn’t pull over, proceed with caution. Avoid passing on hills, curves, or when anything blocks your view of oncoming vehicles.
  • Don’t speed past: When passing farm equipment, be aware that your vehicle’s turbulence may cause the machinery to sway and become unsteady. To prevent this, pass at a low speed.
  • Slow down: As soon as you see farm equipment, slow down — these vehicles typically travel at about 15-25 mph. Therefore, it takes less than 7 seconds for a car traveling at 55 mph to rear-end a tractor that’s 300-400 feet away.
  • Look for the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem: Keep an eye out for the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem, which looks like an orange triangle with red borders. Here’s a picture of what you’re looking for.
  • Stay alert: Watch for amber flashing lights that signal the far ends of the farm equipment. There may also be reflective tape on these far-reaching parts that increase its visibility.
  • Understand the limitations of farm equipment: Farm equipment isn’t as maneuverable as a car or truck. A lot of farm equipment can’t safely negotiate road shoulders or loose surfaces — these tall, unstable vehicles run the risk of tipping over.
  • Leave space: Stay about 50 feet back from farm equipment on the road. If you’re passing, leave ample room between your vehicle and the farm equipment, because large machines can’t hit the brakes and stop on a dime.
  • Watch for turns: Wide vehicles make wide turns. If you see farm machinery veering off in one direction, it may be making a turn, not pulling over. That’s because farm equipment operators have to swing a heavy left or right to make a turn. It’s safest to stay back and watch what the machinery operator chooses to do next.
  • Yield to wide vehicles: Some farm equipment may be wider than the road. If you’re approaching an oncoming wide vehicle, stop and pull off the road, turn around, pick a different route, or back away so the machinery can safely pass. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for pilot cars, which indicate that an oversized vehicle is coming down the road.

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Sources: Rear View Safety, Steinberg Law Firm, Hobby Farms