Watch for Farm Equipment on the Road
This is the growing season on the farm, which means more drivers and farm equipment will be on the road.
“We live in an agricultural state where we see several tractors and farm implements on many of our two-lane and gravel roads,” says Rick Schmidt, an agriculture and natural resources agent for the North Dakota State University Extension Service in Oliver County. “It is extremely important for all people to understand the dangers this may cause.”
For example, an automobile traveling 55 mph will cover 400 feet (more than the length of a football field) in five seconds. At 65 mph, the car will travel 475 feet in five seconds. That means a car traveling 55 mph will take about seven seconds to cover that 400 feet and reach a tractor or piece of farm equipment traveling 25 mph.
“As drivers seem to be more distracted by cellphones and texting, the likelihood of rear-ending slow-moving vehicles will increase,” Schmidt says.
Farm equipment operators are supposed to pull off to the side of the road on an approach periodically to let trailing vehicles pass. Therefore, automobile drivers should not pass farm equipment until they can do so safely by observing all of the road signage and traffic or waiting until the equipment operator pulls off to the side of the road, according to Schmidt.
He advises drivers who approach a piece of farm equipment that is moving very slowly or stopped and the operator is planning to make a left-hand turn to be patient and wait to determine if passing is safe.
“Chances are, the tractor operator can’t see the vehicles behind him,” Schmidt says. “Drivers of automobiles need to understand that even if there is a dotted yellow line to pass, they are responsible if they hit the driver of the tractor, who is making a legal turn.”
Vehicles equipped with a Slow Moving Vehicle sign can travel no more than 25 mph. This includes pickups pulling anhydrous ammonia tanks and other farm equipment. If a piece of equipment is pulled faster than 25 mph, the Slow Moving Vehicle sign needs to be covered.
“Everyone on the public roads needs to understand the use of Slow Moving Vehicles signage to prevent accidents,” Schmidt says.
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can pose another safety issue this time of year. They are not supposed to be driven on public roads. They can be driven in the ditches or on the back slope of a ditch, but not on the upslope (slope closest to the road). This is a state law, although it has some exceptions. The law also requires that those operating most ATVs must be at least 16 years old.
Schmidt advises those operating an ATV to never ride with passengers and always wear their helmet.
“Accidents with farm equipment, ATVs and automobiles are usually preventable if we take time to think about safety first,” he says. “Don’t get in such a hurry. Leave a few minutes early and enjoy the drive.”
Source: North Dakota State University