The arrival of spring has sparked planting season for Alabama farmers, which means more tractors, trailers and farm machinery are hitting the road.
The Alabama Farmers Federation reminds drivers to be alert as they share the road with farmers this season.
“This time of year, farmers are moving equipment to and from the field as they work to grow the food and fiber we all depend on,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “We are encouraging drivers to be alert, slow down and be patient as they encounter tractors on the roadways.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 15,000 accidents involving farm vehicles occur annually in the U.S. Alarmingly, 55% of highway deaths occur on rural roads.
Parnell said farmers try to avoid moving machinery during high-traffic times and pull over to allow cars to pass. However, some congestion is inevitable due to speed limitations of farm equipment.
“As farmers, we know our neighbors are in a hurry to get to school, work or other appointments,” he said. “We just ask drivers to understand farmers also are on their way to work. 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.