Harvest season in Iowa means an increased risk for motor vehicle/farm equipment accidents. Farmers are frequently moving equipment from one field to another during this time of year, and often times, those transitions require maneuvering large machinery down or across public roads. It is completely legal for farm machinery to drive on Iowa roadways, but when these slow-moving farm vehicles enter areas normally traversed by fast-moving cars and trucks, accidents can occur.
In an effort to help drivers avoid accidents with slow-moving farm equipment this fall, LOF-Xpress™ offers the following suggestions for motorists during harvest. While each roadway encounter is unique, a general sense of awareness and caution goes a long way in keeping everyone safe and preventing tragedy.
Slow down and pay attention to the road.
Food, music, cell phones, and passengers can lead to distracted drivers and slower reaction times. Focus on the traffic in front of the vehicle and stay within the posted speed limits, especially when traveling through areas where agriculture is prominent.
Watch for road signs.
Many roads next to farms post the following sign to warn drivers that they are entering an area where slow-moving vehicles are likely to be on the road. This should signal the driver to be on the lookout for farm equipment entering traffic.
Don’t make the assumption that the farmer knows you are there.
While most farmers check frequently for vehicles approaching from behind them, their focus should remain on the road ahead. Drive far enough behind farm equipment to ensure farmers can see the vehicle in their mirrors. Also, it is important to keep in mind that farm machinery is very loud and may prevent the operator from hearing another vehicle’s approach.
Follow from a distance.
The triangular slow-moving vehicle sign displayed on the back of farm equipment signifies that the machinery will not be traveling at high speeds and maneuverability is limited.
For motorists, this means: stay back and don’t tailgate. 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 implements, the farmer must execute wide left-hand turns. If you are unsure, check the operator’s hand signals and check the left side of the road for gates, driveways or any place a farm vehicle may turn.
Use extreme caution when passing.
If you cannot clearly see what lies ahead of both your vehicle and the equipment you want to pass, we recommend refraining from doing so. Never pass farm equipment when approaching a hill or curve, and do not attempt to pass when within 100 yards of an intersection, bridge, railroad crossing or tunnel.
Be patient with the farmer.
You are not the only one eager to get the farm equipment off the road and out of the way. Farmers must move their machinery carefully along roadways and have lower maximum speeds by which they can travel. When driving behind these slow-moving vehicles, patiently wait for the operator to find an appropriate time to let you pass. Don’t assume this can be done at any time. The farmer must survey the shoulder of the road for an area that is not soft, wet or steep and can support the weight of the equipment without causing it to tip.
During this year’s harvest season, farmers will be working hard to provide Iowa with food and fuel. Being vigilant when driving on rural roads will help protect everyone. So, here’s to a safe and successful harvest.