(WETM) – Plowing and planting are underway, so you’ll be seeing farm equipment and tractors on the road much more often. And while it may be tempting to rush past farm vehicles, state farm bureaus are urging drivers to just be patient.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau posted a reminder on its Facebook page about driving safely behind farm vehicles. The post said that driving for two miles at 20 MPH behind a farm vehicle will only take six minutes. Yes it can be frustrating, but the agency wants drivers to plan extra time and not rush their trips if they regularly take roads with farm equipment.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said that in 2021, there were 80 crashes on roads involving farm equipment or vehicles. Penn State also released farm fatality numbers for 2015-2019, with several people dying in crashes on the road with farm equipment, on top of over 100 deadly incidents on the farm. According to a 2019 report from The Batavian, rural road accidents are America’s deadliest, and in a three-year window, there were over 200 ag-related crashes involving over 400 people.
Both PFB and the New York Farm Bureau have tips available for both farmers and other drivers to stay safe on the road during the busy spring, summer, and fall months. Farm equipment, and any vehicles that drive under 40MPH (25MPH in Pa.), will have a slow-moving vehicle sign, making it easy to spot while driving.
Both bureaus say that the most important thing when you see one of these signs is to slow down immediately. You should also stay further back from these vehicles to create a cushion if something happens; a car moving faster than a slow tractor will close that gap in just a few seconds.
It’s also important to remember that farmers aren’t intentionally slowing down traffic, PFB says. With that in mind, the bureau wants drivers to be patient and only pass when it’s legal and safe to do so. Passing a tractor on a solid yellow line, near a railroad or intersection, or near a bridge is still against the law. Plus, it’s dangerous, NYFB says, because farm equipment often sways in the road, and farmers may have poor visibility depending on what they’re driving or hauling.
PFB also said farmers should pull over and let traffic pass if need be to make passing safer. However, it’s important to pay attention to whether the farmer is pulling off to the right to actually pull over or to start a wide left turn.
Farmers should also avoid highways and busy roads during rush hour, PFB says. And, if possible, they should have someone drive as a pilot vehicle behind them if they’re going a long distance.