Stuck behind a farm vehicle? What to know about staying safe on rural roads

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 as a part of spring planting. The increased activity of farm equipment on rural roads usually runs from April through November.

Rural Roads Safety Week, April 14-20, 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 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.

Farmers have the legal right to operate their vehicles 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.

Rural road drivers need to follow the speed limit. According to PennDOT, speeding is one of the biggest factors in fatalities and other accidents on rural roads.

We encourage motorists to pay attention and to expect slow moving vehicles on the roads. Recognize the Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) Emblem, which is an orange colored triangle with a red border, on the rear of all vehicles or equipment that consistently travel at speeds of 25 mph or less.

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, and by working together, we can make our roads safer for everyone!

Evalene C. Ishler is a member of the Centre County Farm Bureau.