As the harvest season approaches in Indiana, drivers are noticing more farming equipment during their travels. Farm equipment is designed to be used primarily in a field, as it typically moves at a much slower pace than the average vehicle. However, in order to travel between a farm and field or from field to field, it must sometimes also be operated on public roads.
According to data from the Indiana State Police, there were 317 accidents last year that occurred between agricultural equipment and vehicles. So far this year, there have already been 215, some of which have taken place very close to home. While there is no denying that these slow moving tractors and combines can pose an added hazard, there are also simple steps that we can all take to make our roads safer for both automobile drivers and Indiana farmers.
State law requires specific signage to be displayed on any vehicle designed to travel at speeds of 25 miles per hour or less. However, according to findings shared by the Indiana Farm Bureau, less than 30 percent of drivers know what this symbol means. This orange triangle, with a reflective red border, is not simply a reflector; it is a warning to brake immediately and slow down!
There are also steps that farmers can take to ensure that drivers see the slow moving vehicle emblem from as far back as possible. This is imperative because if a car is moving at 55 miles per hour and comes upon a tractor that is moving 15 miles per hour, it only takes five seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between the two.
To help guarantee that the emblem is as visible as possible and maximize its reflectivity, it must be clean. While routine cleaning is important, the emblem will likely also need to be replaced every few years as they often fade when exposed to sunlight for long periods of time.
Another thing that will help with visibility is planning ahead. As you plan your daily tasks, try to avoid operating equipment on public roads before sunrise and after sunset. Being on the road during times of reduced lighting can make it even more difficult to judge distance, which is a danger to both the farmer and vehicle operator.
It is also important that drivers not assume that a farmer knows they are there. Most farm equipment operators will regularly check to see if there is traffic behind them, but they must also keep their eyes on the road in front of them. What’s more, farm equipment is very loud, so even if a car is right behind them, they are likely unable to hear it. To alert the farmer of your presence, it is a good idea to use your car’s horn before attempting to pass, and proceed with the utmost level of caution as normal traffic rules still apply.
In addition, if a farmer has pulled to the side of the road, one should not simply assume that they are trying to let you pass. Due to the size of most farm equipment, the driver may have to make wide left turns prompting them to swing to the right. If you are unsure, watch for the operator’s hand signals and check the left side of the road for driveways or any other place where they could turn into.
While most of these tips seem logical, they can be difficult to remember in instances where you are running late to pick your child up from school or you are simply ready to be home after a long day at the office. The key, however, is to be aware of your surroundings, be patient and be considerate. Even if you have to follow a tractor for two miles at 20 miles per hour, it only takes six minutes of your time. In the grand scheme of things, six minutes is a small price to pay when it is literally a matter of life and death.