With it being September now and much of the Midwest's corn and soybean crops running ahead of its normal growing schedule, harvest equipment will soon be in full force on the region's roads. Normal traffic, combined with large combines and tractors and grain carts, can often lead to accidents.
Drivers in rural areas must remain alert to the possibility of encountering slow-moving farm machinery, and be prepared to slow down or stop, according to the Indiana State Police (ISP).
The law enforcement agency has posted harvest safety driving tips to its website.
View the tips at this link:
Farm equipment needs additional roadway space, so drivers need to be prepared to slow down or even pull to the side of the road and stop, the ISP said. Drivers need to be aware of harvest equipment to avoid a rear-end collision or striking machinery that is turning into a field or driveway.
Farm machinery travels slower than normal traffic, often at speeds of 25 mph or less, the law enforcement agency said. Automobile drivers must quickly identify farm equipment and slow down immediately to avoid rear-end crashes.
Slow-moving farm machinery traveling less than 25 mph are required to have a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem on the back of the equipment. All lighting on the equipment should be working properly and be highly visible, according to the ISP.
Machinery that is half on the road and half on the shoulder may suddenly move completely onto the road. The operator of the farm machinery may have to maneuver around obstacles such as road signs.
One last tip from the ISP: slow-moving vehicles are required to pull off to the right where three or more vehicles are blocked and cannot pass on the left. I will be perfectly honest with this one -- I have never heard of this requirement.
Maybe this is an Indiana thing, but I didn't think this was a requirement of farm machinery operators. I know on our farm, when we move equipment, we slow down or pull over to let several cars go around us. We do this as a courtesy and so we don't have a bunch of cars following us for several miles.
Where I grew up outside of Omaha, the area was once a rural, small town, but over the years, it has morphed into more of a suburban area of the big city. We still farm there and we often drive through a fair amount of traffic.
One thing we try to do is have an escort vehicle behind the farm machinery with its flashers on. This way there is even more flashing lights to get the attention of sometimes unaware, suburban motorists.
I have written a blog similar to this one in the past and received a comment on it saying this was not a good idea as it just makes for even more traffic than moving the farm equipment by itself. I understand the thinking in the response, but we have found this practice to work for us -- we have never had accident moving harvest equipment.
The ISP even has safety tips for passing farm machinery on rural roads.
The first tip was to check to be sure that machinery is not turning left. Look for left turn lights or hand signals. If the machinery slows and pull towards the right side of the road, the operator is likely preparing to make a wide-turn.
I think if you were analyze car/farm machinery accidents, a large percentage of them would probably involve machinery slowing down to turn left off of the roadway. Accidents in which the machinery turns right probably occurs as well, but turning left with cars behind you can be a dangerous maneuver, especially if the car behind you tries to pass.
Another tip is to determine if the road is wide enough for cars and the machinery to safely share.
A final tip from the ISP is to look for roadside obstacles such as mailboxes, bridges or road signs that may cause the machinery to move to the center of the road. Be sure there is adequate distance for you to safely pass, the ISP said.
Russ Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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