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Farmers urge drivers to practice patience during planting season


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Virginia Farm Bureau Federation encourages motorists to slow down, make room and pass safely.

Farm Bureau leaders statewide want drivers to be aware that agricultural activities in the spring result in more tractors and other heavy equipment on public roads.

State law requires that all farm tractors and self-propelled farm machinery that typically travel slower than 25 mph display a triangular slow-moving vehicle emblem on the rear of the vehicle when driven on a public roadway. Many farmers also use flashing amber lights, reflective decals and escort vehicles to alert approaching drivers.

SMV emblems warn drivers to start slowing down right away. The distance between a car traveling at 55 mph and a tractor going 20 mph can close quickly.

Bedford County farmer Eddie Reynolds Jr. was killed last year in a collision precipitated by illegal passing. The VFBF Safety Advisory Committee is working to raise awareness in 2020.

Patience is key, said committee chairman Dana Fisher. “Farm vehicles travel at a different speed, take a lot of space, and they’re moving from farm to farm. When you have a farm vehicle that’s traveling at a lower speed, you’re going to catch it a lot faster than you would another vehicle.” Fisher explained that in those instances even a moment of distraction can create a dangerous situation.

He noted that mailboxes, posts and other vehicles can create obstacles for SMVs—something motorists also should keep in mind.

“Those farm vehicles take up a lot of space width-wise on the road, and sometimes they have to watch out for other things too,” Fisher said. “As they’re trying to maneuver around, they’re going to take more than just their lane to be able to get from place to place.”

Fisher said the committee is dedicated to resolving farm safety issues, and the VFBF safety website is an excellent resource.

Stafford County farmer Glenn Dye is an active safety committee member. He said farmers make an effort to coexist with motorists on the road.

“We’ll try to move between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the buses and the kids are off the road,” he explained. “We don’t want to be in the way impeding traffic any more than they want us to be in the way. If everybody could just slow down and take a minute, everybody can get to where they’re going safely.”