During your travels on Ohio’s rural roads, you will notice a lot of farm activity that is the hallmark of any season, but especially this time of year there is a an increase of sharing the road with slow-moving farm equipment necessary for crop harvest. Equipment that you may see includes tractors and implements, combines, semi-trucks, and wagons.
Motorists and farm equipment operators alike should be extra aware of surroundings and use caution this fall. Not recognizing a slow moving vehicle, not observing lighting or hand signals, trying to pass slow moving vehicles or simply not noticing them is a leading cause of collisions and death of farm equipment operators and motorists.
Learning to be aware of road conditions, recognizing slow moving vehicles and giving the equipment ample room and respect on the road is key to safe driving for everyone.
A car that is traveling at 55mph requires 224 feet to stop on dry pavement, giving average reaction time and braking. If traveling at 65 mph, the safe stopping distance increases to 302 feet. A car traveling at 55 mph will close the 300-foot gap (the length of a football field) and will overtake a tractor moving at 15 mph in about 5 seconds. If the car is traveling at 65 mph, the time drops to 4 seconds.
The most common equipment/motorist accidents occur when a slow-moving vehicle is making a left turn and the motorist begins to pass. Motorists can avoid this type of accident by:
• Watching for hand signals.
• Not assuming the slow moving vehicle pulling off to the right is going to turn right – many types of large equipment need to turn right briefly before making a left-hand turn to give their equipment clearance. A vehicle moving to the right slightly does not automatically mean that they are letting you pass.
To safely share the road with our country neighbors, motorists should observe the following tips:
• Watch for Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs (triangular fluorescent orange emblem bordered in red on each side). When you see one, slow down and be cautious – just like you are approaching a stop light.
• Avoid using SMV signs as driveway markers or in any other use than to mark a slow-moving vehicle. To do otherwise is illegal.
• Be extra cautious when driving on hilly roads and during dusk, sunset and sunrise.
• Slow down when you see flashing signals or turn signals on a slow-moving vehicle.
• Be patient. Most farm equipment can not travel faster than 25 mph and it is not easy for equipment operators to move aside and allow you to pass.
• Pass with caution, even after checking the road in front and behind you.
• Avoid pulling out in front of a slow moving vehicle. Farm equipment cannot stop or slow down quickly.
• Most importantly, when you spot a vehicle that isn’t a car or a truck, slow down right away and approach cautiously.
Farmers can also drive defensively and do their part to protect themselves and motorists by:
• Replacing worn or faded SMV signs.
• Marking equipment with approved safety reflective tape.
• Regularly inspecting and cleaning lights, reflective tape and SMV signs.
• Using lights at all times you are on the road, especially from sunset to sunrise. Even better, avoid driving between dusk and dawn whenever possible.
• Allowing extra time to turn.
• Being courteous. Allow approaching cars to pass before you enter the road, be alert for dips in the road and allow time to pull over to let other cars pass when possible.
• Using turn signals or hand signals.
• Using extreme caution when making a wide left turn from the road.
By practicing these few simple tips, we can ensure a happy and safe harvest season for everyone.
The writer is the Ohio Farm Bureau’s organization director for Auglaize, Logan, Mercer, Shelby and Union counties.