Alabamians are encouraged to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, farmers are still performing essential work planting crops to feed, fuel and clothe consumers.
That means drivers performing essential travel, such as to the grocery store, are sharing the road with more farm machinery.
“Springtime means farmers are moving equipment to and from the field as they work to grow crops we all depend on, which is especially critical during times like these,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “We encourage drivers to be alert, slow down and be patient as they encounter tractors on the roadways.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation reports 15,000 accidents annually involving farm vehicles in the U.S. Alarmingly, 55% of highway deaths are on rural roads.
Parnell said farmers try to pull over to allow cars to pass. However, congestion is inevitable due to speed limitations of farm equipment.
“We ask drivers to understand farmers are on their way to work,” said Parnell. “A little patience can mean the difference between life and death. Saving a few minutes is not worth endangering the life of yourself, the farmer or other drivers by passing on a solid yellow line, swerving around a tractor or approaching slow-moving vehicles at high speed.”
Slow-moving vehicles should be identified by an orange triangle on the back of the machine, meaning it’s designed to travel at 25 mph or less. The Federation noted it only takes five seconds for a car moving 55 mph to close a gap the length of a football field with a tractor moving 15 mph.
Safety tips for drivers include:
- Slow down when you see a piece of agricultural equipment. Most farm equipment is designed to travel at speeds of only 15 to 25 mph.
- Watch for slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs. SMVs are required for vehicles traveling less than 25 mph.
- Watch for electronic or hand turn signals. Just because a tractor veers right does not mean the operator is pulling over to allow someone to pass. The size of farm equipment often dictates the necessity of wide turns.
- Pass farm equipment cautiously. Even when passing safely and legally, machinery may sway or become unstable. Do not expect operators to drive their equipment onto the shoulder of the road.
- Driving with one set of tires on loose-surfaced shoulders substantially increases the risk of turning over.
- Watch for flashing amber lights. This type of light often marks the far right and left of farm equipment. Also watch for reflective tape marking extremities and sides of equipment.
- Remember agricultural vehicle operators have a right to drive their equipment on the road.