April's Ag Advice by April Borders Moving farm equipment on public roads can be a dangerous business. Operators need to drive defensively and remain alert every second they are on the road. A major reason for farm machinery accidents on public roads is the difference in speed between cars and tractors. Motorists approach the slow moving farm equipment so quickly that they only have a few seconds to identify the hazard and react appropriately.
That's why it is so important for farm equipment to be highly visible, properly identified as moving much slower than regular traffic. This identification is provided by the slow moving vehicles (SMV) sign. Locate the SMV emblem on the rear of the tractor or equipment so it can be clearly seen by vehicles approaching from the rear.
When towing a trailer or other equipment that blocks the tractor emblem, an additional SMV must be attached and visible on the towed equipment. This requirement applies to all farm equipment operating at or below 25 m.p.h. The SMV signs must also be kept clean, faded or damaged signs should be replaced.
Tractors must be equipped with lights if operated on public roads at night, or under conditions of reduced visibility. Highway travel requires headlights, red taillights, and reflectors. Flashing amber lights provide day and night warning to traffic approaching from either direction. Turn signals provide added highway safety. The more highly visible the equipment is the better.
Reflectors and reflective tape can be effective, especially if one must be on the road in the evening. It is recommended to put reflective materials on both the front and back of a wide piece of farm equipment. This way motorists can determine how much space to allow for passing.
Farm machinery operators can make road travel safer for themselves and others by taking the following precautions.
* Avoid busy roads whenever possible, even if travel time will be longer.
* Travel at a speed that will allow you to maintain full control at all times.
* Slow down when making turns or rounding curves.
* Observe road travel precautions listed in operators manuals. Some tractors freewheel in higher gears. This can be very dangerous when coming down a hill. Use lower gear ranges when climbing or descending hills.
* If possible, drive on the shoulder of a paved highway. However, don't drive partly on the shoulder and partly on the paved lane.
* Stay alert for hazards such as soft shoulders, narrow bridges, loose gravel, bumps, potholes and deep ruts.
* When cars are lined up behind you, and a suitable shoulder is available, pull over to let traffic pass.
* If possible, move equipment in daylight during periods of light traffic.
* Travel after dark only if absolutely necessary. Remember that you need proper lighting for night driving.
* Don't take chances by pulling onto a road in front of moving traffic. Enter and exit roadways very cautiously if your view is obstructed.
* Obey traffic laws and signs. Courtesy is a key component of road safety!
Not all of the responsibility for road safety falls on the shoulders of the farmers. Motorists need to be aware that farm equipment is generally moving slower than they are, and should reduce their speed accordingly. Slowing down gives you, the motorist, time to assess the situation. Motorists also should be aware that the tractor requires a lot of space to make a turn into a field or at an intersection.
Be extra alert when you are traveling in rural areas off the Interstate because there may be slow moving vehicles on rural roads. Every person that is traveling on the public roads should be on the look out for farm equipment.
Each year, thousands of collisions between automobiles and farm vehicles on U.S. highways result in serious injuries or death.
Don't become a statistic. These accidents can be significantly reduced. Take some precautions while driving. Slow down and pass with care.
Just a reminder that the Clay County Master Gardeners and the Vermillion Garden Club will be having their annual plant sale at the 4-H Center in Vermillion on May 1st at 9 a.m. Hope to see you there.