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Exercise Extreme Caution with Farm Equipment on Rural Roads

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Large farm equipment and vehicles have to share rural roads safely. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Mike Boyatt)

Many years ago, a retired farmer from Minnesota called me to pass along a story from his younger days for my Russ' Vintage Iron column. After telling me the story, we talked a little about the weather, crop conditions and what was going on his own family farm.

Out of the blue the gentleman who called me about a fun subject like vintage iron turned extremely serious and told me his daughter-in-law and grandchild had died recently in a car/farm machinery accident. And then he started to cry, I mean full-on weeping.

I didn't know what to say to him. What do you say to someone whose life will never be the same again because of an accident involving farm machinery on the road?

He quickly regained his composure and apologized to me. I told him he did not have anything to be sorry about and I added how sorry I was for his loss. Then the conversation when back to old tractors.

Even though this phone call was probably 20 years ago now, I think about it quite often. I think about it every time I pass farm equipment on a rural road or if I'm driving a tractor down the road.

Iowa State University (ISU) Extension had a press release from earlier this spring titled "Sharing Rural Roads with Farm Equipment Requires Patience and Caution" (https://www.extension.iastate.edu/…). The post was written by Steven Freeman, professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering at ISU.

Freeman wrote the most common incidents occur when an approaching motorist hits a farm vehicle from behind or when a passing motorist hits a farm vehicle that is attempting to make a left-hand turn. His advice for everyone is simple: always drive defensively and also make sure all vehicles and equipment are properly marked.

"It requires everyone if we are going to make the road safer," Freeman said. "Motorists need to slow down and be patient, and farmers need to make sure their equipment is marked and their intentions are recognized."

Freeman said motorists need to understand farm equipment is usually moving extremely slow, especially if the equipment has Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs. If possible, farm equipment operators and motorists should try and make eye contact when turning or preparing to pass and both should be cautious about making any assumptions, he said.

Here are some tips for rural drivers:

-- Be prepared for farm vehicles.

-- Slow down and keep your distance.

-- Be sure of the farm equipment operator's intention before passing.

-- Be patient.

-- Be especially alert for farm machinery in the evening as dusk makes farm equipment more difficult to see.

Here are some tips for farm equipment operators:

-- Only allow appropriately trained drivers to take machinery onto the road.

-- Make sure farm equipment is equipped with the proper lighting and safety devices.

-- Minimize total vehicle width and secure equipment in transport position.

-- Watch for approaching traffic and vehicles trying to pass. If possible, pull over and let traffic safely pass.

-- Obey all traffic laws and signs.

-- Signal intentions to motorists and avoid sudden or unexpected maneuvers.

-- Exercise additional care when entering roadways, approaching unsigned or "blind" intersections, crossing narrow bridges, going around sharp corners or going over hills.

I think all of us involved in production agriculture have had a close call or two on a public road. I can remember having a couple close calls as I tried to turn left and vehicles behind me decided this would be a good time to pass me. Luckily for everyone involved, the motorists realized I was turning left and they quickly stopped.

Sometimes we are not that lucky and accidents happen and both vehicle and farm equipment operators are injured or killed. Please take the time to follow these safety tips so everyone can make it back home to their loved ones.

Russ Quinn can be reached at Russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

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