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Be Patient on Roads During Planting Season

It’s time for my annual appeal to all to be patient and safe on roads during the spring planting season. From recent conversations I’ve had with farmers, I know they would echo that appeal as they try to get their work done as safely and efficiently as possible.

As drivers, we all know it can be frustrating when we encounter delays from a train, or from farm equipment going slowly. However, I think it goes without saying that everyone’s wish is for safe travel and safe arrival to their destinations for everyone on the road.

According to the Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program’s 2020 Indiana Farm Fatality Summary with Historical Overview, a total of 25 farm-related fatalities were documented in Indiana during 2020, an increase from 21 in 2019. However, these statistics do not include fatalities to farmers due to motor vehicle crashes involving farm vehicles (unless determined to occur when conducting farm work tasks), nor other conditions not directly attributed to work activities, such as heart attack or heat stress.

Modern farm vehicles have more safety equipment than previous models, including better lighting, but the individual vehicles are much larger and pose a greater danger in a collision. Tractors, planters, sprayers, and other farm equipment can be two to three times the height of passenger vehicles, weigh up to 40,000 pounds or more, and take up more than a lane of traffic.

Increasingly, farmers are using utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) in their farming operations for sundry tasks. At least 3 fatal incidents in 2020 involved UTV-motor vehicle collisions.

Drivers should keep in mind that farmers cannot always safely pull over to let others pass, due to road signs, side ditches, the physical nature of what they are transporting, and other hazards. Conversely, farmers should be courteous and pull over to let others pass when it is safe to do so.

Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblems should be displayed on farm equipment and other slow-moving vehicles. An SMV emblem is a triangle shape, with an orange fluorescent center and red reflective borders. Equipment and other vehicles displaying this emblem are capable of speeds no faster than 25 miles per hour. Driving at road speed, the gap between you and the equipment will close quickly, so immediate caution and slower speeds are prudent.

Note also that our Amish neighbors in northern Indiana are transporting people in horse-drawn buggies and other slow-moving vehicles year-round.

Most farmers have had some significant days in the farm shop to get equipment ready. However, I’d urge farmers to recheck the condition of SMV emblems to make sure they are still fluorescent. Over time, these emblems can fade, become less noticeable, and need replacing.

Other road-related safety equipment, such as headlights, taillights, flashing lights, hitch pins, tires, and wheel bearings also should be checked.

Lastly, large equipment should be fully folded to transport position for the safety of the farmer and other drivers when moving from field to field over the road.

Safety is always an important consideration, whether at home, on the road, or on the farm. Take time to be safe, be patient, and share the road this spring.

Read the aforementioned report at:

Slow-moving vehicle emblem

Slow-moving vehicle emblem. Photo by John Woodmansee.

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