Fall is in full swing, and while that may mean scenic drives to see the leaves changing colors, for others autumn is harvest time. As farmers head out to their fields, drivers may need to add a few more minutes to their travel time in the event they encounter a tractor or other slow-moving farm equipment.
“Our local farmers will be moving agricultural machinery along county roadways in order to access farm fields,” said Sheriff Luke Hennen. “It is now even more important to be alert, be patient, and share the road.”
One of the most dangerous aspects of farm equipment out on the roads is when vehicles try to pass them. Passing in a “no-passing zone” is not only dangerous, it’s illegal. Motorists must wait until it is legal and safe to pass. If you must pass, please be extra cautious, as tractors and other farm equipment may be wider than they appear from behind and may require ample space in both lanes.
A common accident that occurs is when a slow-moving farm vehicle is turning left. Although a tractor may appear to be stopping beside the road or turning right, it might actually be turning left. The farmer is swinging wide to line up with a gate or driveway; the driver behind the farmer may think the farmer is pulling over to let the driver pass. Look for gates, driveways or access roads on the left side of the road that may indicate a left turn.
Also keep in mind that once corn is harvested, deer will lose their cover and begin moving across roadways with more frequency. In October and November of 2019, the Sheriff’s Office received 105 reports that involved deer hit by vehicles.
The keys to safety when sharing the road with farm equipment are caution and patience. Below are a few tips to stay safe during harvest season.
Tips for motorists:
- Slow down and use caution when approaching farm equipment. Don’t assume the operator can see you.
- Farm machinery may enter the roadway at any time, so slow down if you see equipment traveling towards or adjacent to a roadway.
- Do not pass farm machinery unless it is safe and legal to do so.
- Watch for debris dropped by trucks. It is safer to brake or drive through debris than to veer into oncoming traffic or off the road.
- Farm machinery is typically not equipped with turn signals, so watch for unanticipated left turns and increase your following distance at night.
- Farm equipment can be wide, sometimes taking up most of the roadway. Expect them to take wider turns and even travel in both lanes to properly turn.
- Watch for deer! If you spot one, expect more to cross.
- Don’t pull in front of farm equipment and suddenly slow down. The tractor may be towing heavy machinery, making quick stopping impossible.
- Watch for hand signals and other ways a farmer may try to communicate with you. They have a higher vantage point and will often signal to you when it’s safe to pass.
Tips for farm equipment operators:
- Ensure your tractor or implement has a “slow-moving vehicle” triangle affixed to the rear of the equipment or implement.
- Attach reflective tape or decals, especially at the widest point of the equipment or implement.
- Use lights and flashers to make equipment more visible.
- Consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, especially at night.
- Properly secure your load.
As always, please feel free to reach out using one of the following methods: by email at [email protected]; by phone at (952) 496-8625; via social media @sheriffhennen; or by mail at Scott County Sheriff’s Office, 301 Fuller Street South, Shakopee, MN 55379. You can also visit our website at https://www.scottcountymn.gov/.