Farm equipment on roads calls for driver cooperation

road-work-headerIt’s harvest time for many Virginia farmers, and that means super-size farm vehicles are on the road in many communities. Virginia Farm Bureau is encouraging both farmers and motorists to exercise caution.

For commuters who take back roads to avoid interstate traffic, a 17-foot-wide combine lumbering along at 20 mph is not always a welcome sight. For farmers, moving that machinery on public roads can be one of the most dangerous parts of their job—especially when a motorist tries to pass.

Glenn Dye, who grows corn, soybeans, wheat and hay on his family’s farm in Stafford County, said that he and other farmers try to avoid heavy-traffic times when they move equipment. They also use slow-moving vehicle emblems, flashing lights, flags and escort vehicles. Even with those precautions, collisions can occur. Dye told of a motorist who ran her car underneath the front of a neighbor’s combine while trying to pass him. “Luckily she was not killed,” he said. He noted that many new residents of his fast-growing county are not familiar with agriculture and “don’t know anything about farm equipment.”

Dye, who is on the Stafford County Farm Bureau board and participates in the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers Program, felt that more education on road safety was needed. Using the slogan “Sometimes Half the Road Is Not Enough” developed by Virginia Cooperative Extension for a farm vehicle safety campaign, he placed banners and other materials at the Farm Bureau booth at the State Fair of Virginia. Now he hopes the banners can be distributed to county Farm Bureau offices and that farm vehicle safety awareness can be integrated into driver education programs.

Sam Rooks, vice president of underwriting and policy services for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., noted that Virginia law requires all farm tractors and self-propelled farm machinery that typically travel less than 25 mph to display a triangular slow-moving vehicle emblem on the rear of the vehicle when traveling on a public highway.

“The red and orange reflective SMV emblem signifies that a motorist should slow down; determine whether the slow-moving vehicle is preparing to turn; and pass with caution, but never in a no-passing zone,” Rooks said.

“With mutual cooperation, farmers can get their harvest in and motorists can get to their destinations safely.”


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