Rural roads safety is an important issue year-round, but it is especially important at this time of year, when farmers are once again driving slow-moving, big equipment on rural roads for spring planting. The increased activity of farm equipment on rural roads usually runs from April through November.
Centre County Farm Bureau notes that Rural Roads Safety Week is designed to alert motorists across Pennsylvania to drive cautiously on rural roads and to slow down when approaching large farm equipment on back roads. Farmers are encouraging motorists to be patient when they find themselves behind a piece of farm equipment.
Farmers do have the legal right to operate their equipment on rural roads, so the key to safely sharing the road is patience, courtesy and caution. The use of farm equipment on roads is necessary for farmers to conduct business practices.
Farmers will make every effort to accommodate motorists. Machine operators will drive on the shoulder of paved roadways, whenever possible, in order to give other motorists a better view of road conditions and enough room to pass slower moving farm vehicles.
Rural road drivers need to follow the speed limit. PennDOT says speeding is one of the biggest factors in fatalities and other accidents on rural roads.
All motorists need to be able to recognize the slow moving vehicle emblem and slow down immediately when they see it. The slow moving vehicle emblem should only be used on a vehicle or animal-drawn vehicle designed to travel at speeds of 25 mph or less, so it is often your first clue that you are approaching an object traveling much slower than you are.
The farmer is aware that he is delaying your trip, so he will often pull off to the side of the road or wave you around when it is safe to pass. Keep in mind that if the shoulder is soft, wet, or steep, the farmer cannot move aside because it would cause his equipment to tip. If the farmer cannot pull off the road and you feel you must pass, do so with caution. Never assume a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right or let you pass. Due to the size of some farm equipment, the farmer must move to the right before executing a wide left turn.
Most operators of farm equipment will regularly check to see if there is traffic behind them, but you can use your car’s horn to give a friendly signal to the farmer that you are there before you attempt to pass.
Cooperation among farmers and rural motorists will determine the success of the program. If farmers and motorists look out for one another, everyone should arrive at their destination safely.
On behalf of the Centre County Farm Bureau, I encourage all drivers to be aware of farm equipment during their travels on our rural roads. By working together, we can make the trip safe for both motorists and farmers. I hope you have a safe and happy spring.
Evalene C. Ishler, Centre County Farm Bureau member