Stay Safe on Rural Roads
Farm machinery transportation can create dangers for farmers and rural residents. Tractors and other farm implements will soon be on the move from one field to another on backroads and highways across the Midwest. Planting season is one of the most hazardous times for driving in rural areas, notes Karen Funkenbusch, a University of Missouri Extension rural safety and health specialist.
Farmers need to be aware of the other vehicles and take special precautions to prevent collisions. Rural drivers must also be aware of the large, slow moving vehicles when they turn corners, come over hills and meet farm equipment on the road.
“Courtesy and patience are key to safety on the road,” says Funkenbusch. “Getting to your destination safely is the main goal. A few extra minutes may save lives.”
Funkenbusch notes that tractors and combines have top speeds of around 20-24 miles per hour. A car going 55 mph that is 300 feet behind a tractor going 15 mph can close that gap-about the length of a football field-in about five seconds.
“Motorists need to be alert,” she says. “You really don’t have much time when you’re traveling 55 miles per hour.”
Farm Machinery Transportation Tips
- When driving farm machinery on a road or highway, display a red flag measuring 12-14 feet high atop a pole so that the machine can be seen even when hidden by a rise or curve in the roadway.
- When rounding a curve, stay to the right-hand side of the road as much as possible. Avoid soft or steep road shoulders, which may cause the tractor to tip.
- Take extra precautions when driving in the early morning or early evening hours, when visibility is often impaired by sun.
- If traffic lines up behind the farm equipment, pull off or let traffic pass.
- Railroad crossings, especially those without gates, present a special hazard. Never take a safe crossing for granted.
- Use hand signals, electronic signals or both to indicate intentions to turn. Avoid wide turns.
- Turn your headlights on, but turn off rear spotlights, which can be mistaken for headlights.
- Avoid being on the road during rush hour, in bad weather and at night.
- Use pilot cars if going a considerable distance and hang a flag out the window of these vehicles or use a slow-moving vehicle emblem.
What to Do When You Encounter Farm Equipment on the Road
- Some farm equipment is wider than the road. Don’t assume a farmer can pull over to the shoulder, as it may be steep or soft.
- Pass with caution.
- Do not assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right or is letting you pass. Due to the size of some farm machinery, the farmer must execute wide left-hand turns.
- Do not assume the farmer in front of you knows you are there. Farm equipment is loud.
- Be patient and courteous.