With the fall harvest season underway, there’s an increase in the number of slow moving vehicles, like tractors, self-propelled farm machinery and animal-powered carts, on the nation’s rural roads. When other drivers come upon equipment traveling significantly slower than them, collisions can occur.
To help avoid potentially dangerous encounters with slow moving vehicles during harvest season and throughout the year, keep these driving tips in mind:
Stay alert. Keep your eyes open for the fluorescent red and orange placard on the rear of slow moving vehicles. Also, be on the lookout for the yellow and black warning sign depicting a farmer driving a tractor, which indicates farm machinery crossings ahead. However, remember that farm vehicles could enter the roadway from unmarked access drives. In addition, be vigilant for ATVs and other off-road vehicles (e.g., dirt bikes, off-highway motorcycles) that may emerge from fields or cross roads. Such vehicles are prevalent in rural regions and may be smaller and harder to spot than typical road vehicles.
Slow down and stay back. Begin reducing your speed as soon as you see a slow moving vehicle, and keep a safe distance—at least 4-6 seconds in good weather and 6-10 seconds in poor conditions. If you need to slow down significantly or stop due to a slow moving vehicle ahead, activate your hazard lights to warn other motorists.
Turn on your lights. Operators of slow moving vehicles may have limited visibility due to loads and equipment in tow. Also, most tractors and other farm machinery are very loud…don’t assume that the driver knows you’re there. Use your headlights to help see and be seen.
Observe road and weather conditions. Drivers of slow moving vehicles may make sudden adjustments to their position on the road due to various factors like debris, puddles, uneven surfaces, or weather. Be prepared to react accordingly.
Watch for turns. Some equipment operators may make wide or unexpected turns, especially when entering or exiting fields. If their actions are unclear, check for hand gestures or lights indicating the operator’s intentions, and look for driveways, gates, roads, or fields the vehicle may be entering before attempting to pass.
Pass carefully. Only overtake a slow moving vehicle when it's safe and legal to do so. Don’t assume the driver can move aside to let you pass; roadway shoulders may be too soft, wet or steep. If they do pull over, watch for obstacles (e.g., mailboxes, bridges, road signs) that may cause the operator to maneuver back toward the center of the road. When passing, be mindful of equipment width and any protruding implements.
Respect animal-powered vehicles. When encountering animal-powered vehicles, exercise extra caution. These vehicles may make unpredictable movements, so provide ample room and avoid using your horn, which can startle the animals.
It’s easy to get impatient behind slow moving vehicles, but they have the same right to be on public roads as other vehicles. Set an example by driving courteously, giving them space and slowing down!
Article provided by Lancer Insurance co.