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Use caution around farm equipment during fall harvest

farm use road
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Fall harvest season is here, and it’s a busy and challenging time for farmers as they move equipment on local roads to get from one field to another.

The fall harvest can last until November, and it’s a particularly precarious time for farmers and drivers because there’s more equipment traveling on public roads, said Jeremy Moyer, Amelia County Farm Bureau president and member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Farm Safety Advisory Committee. Supporting vehicles, such as tractor trailers and dump trucks, also are on roadways, transporting harvested crops.

“Some equipment is 15 or 16 feet wide with dual tires,” Moyer said. “There’s not great visibility for the operator. Even with rear cameras and mirrors, there are still pretty large blind spots behind a lot of equipment.”

Additionally, a large piece of equipment such as a combine can easily span more than one travel lane.

State law requires tractors and other equipment that travels 25 mph or slower to be marked with a triangular slow-moving vehicle emblem when operated on public roads. Many farmers also use flashing amber lights, reflective decals and escort vehicles to alert approaching motorists.

“Most of the time, large farm equipment is not going very far, maybe a mile or two at the most,” Moyer added.

Drivers are urged to be aware and use caution if they encounter a tractor or other farm equipment on the roadway.

“I think some of the accidents have been when the farmers are making a left-hand turn and the driver behind doesn’t realize the farmer is turning,” said Becky Broaddus, a Caroline County farmer and member of the VFBF Farm Safety Advisory Committee.

Adding to the danger, some rural roads have sharp curves and low visibility, with turnoffs tucked out of sight. Broaddus emphasized that farmers will generally move over when it’s safe so cars can get by, but areas with trees, overgrowth, steep ditches or obstacles roadside mailboxes can prevent them from doing so.

“Be patient, and understand that the farmer is not trying to slow you down,” Broaddus said. “They’re just trying to get safely to their farm or their field. Don’t put yourself or the farmer at risk by trying to get around them when it’s not safe.”