Drivers should pay special attention as they travel rural roads and highways during spring planting time, says University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch.
It's the time of the year when the rural roads are filled with tractors pulling farm equipment. Slow-moving farm equipment presents special dangers for motorists, Funkenbusch says.
The most common accident occurs when a slow-moving farm vehicle turns left. Large farm equipment needs to make wide turns to line up with a gate or driveway.
Slow down on rural roads, she says. A car traveling 55 mph requires 224 feet to stop on dry payment, assuming average reaction time for braking. At 55 mph, it takes a car just five seconds to close the length of a football field and overtake a tractor moving 15 mph.
Stay back from farm equipment. Use caution and patience, Funkenbusch says. Noise from the equipment's motor and tires may make it difficult for the driver to hear approaching vehicles.
Dusk, sunrise and blinding sunlight compromise the driver's vision. Keep an eye on traffic behind you that may also attempt to pass. Pass only when the road is clear and vision is unobstructed. "Getting to your destination safely is the main goal," Funkenbusch says. "A few extra minutes may save lives."
Most farmers make every effort to be courteous and safe, she says. Many will pull equipment off the roadway when road shoulders permit to let motorists pass safely. Watch for hand signals from the farmer.
Farmers may rush as they face weather-related deadlines. They want to get into the fields to till and plant. Practice patience during the small and temporary inconvenience of your food being produced, Funkenbusch says.
Funkenbusch also recommends that parents talk to teen drivers in their household about additional dangers presented during farming season. Hired farmhands also should review safe practices.
Funkenbusch offers additional recommendations for farmers:
- When driving farm machinery on a road or highway, display a red flag measuring 12-14 feet high atop a pole so that the machine can be seen even when hidden by a rise or curve in the roadway.
- When rounding a curve, stay to the right-hand side of the road as much as possible. Avoid soft or steep road shoulders, which may cause the tractor to tip.
- Take extra precautions when driving in the early morning or early evening hours, when visibility is often impaired by sun.
- If traffic lines up behind you, pull off or let traffic pass when it is safe to do so.
- Railroad crossings, especially those without gates, present a special hazard. Never take a safe crossing for granted.
- Use hand signals, electronic signals or both to indicate intentions to turn. Avoid wide turns.
- Turn your headlights on, but turn off rear spotlights, which can be mistaken for headlights.
- Avoid the roads during rush hour, in bad weather and at night.
- Use pilot cars if going a considerable distance, and hang a flag out the window of these vehicles or use a slow-moving vehicle emblem.