HARVEST TIME: See an orange and red triangle? Slow down!

Staff Writer

Fall harvest is just around the corner, and it’s important to remain patient on roads during harvest season. Safety for everyone will be enhanced if motor vehicle operators stay alert and slow down, and farmers operating the equipment buckle up and make sure all safety equipment is properly displayed.

Local drivers should use caution and slow down when they first see a Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem, the classic orange and red triangle on farm equipment. Equipment displaying this triangle are capable of speeds no faster than 25 miles per hour. We should also keep this in mind in terms of our Amish neighbors traveling in buggies, or on bicycles.

To illustrate, a driver traveling just 50 m.p.h. who spots an SMV emblem at 400 feet away on a vehicle traveling 20 m.p.h. has less than 10 seconds to react. If drivers do not slow down immediately, they may be colliding with the back of the equipment within seconds.
Drivers distracted by cell phones, radio or other distractions could be particularly at risk.

I have heard in casual conversations over the years complaints about the big, slow farm equipment that ties up traffic. While that frustration is easily understood, it’s good to remember that farmers cannot just pull over anywhere — it needs to be a safe place with adequate room to ease traffic congestion. Becoming impatient can create a more dangerous situation for driver and farmer.

Here are some tips all drivers can follow while farm machinery is actively traveling roadways:
•Never be closer than 3 seconds behind a slow moving vehicle.
•Give yourself extra time in the fall and in the spring to arrive at your destination.
•Avoid distracted driving, including, but not limited to, cell phone usage.
•Along with making sure you have the time to pass, make sure the road is straight and wide enough to make the pass.
•Most farmers will pull off the road as soon as it is safe for them to do so. Please be patient.
•Assume the farmer cannot see you — there are many “blind spots” with large machinery.
•Understand that farmers may have to make wide left turns just like semi drivers do — be cautious and don’t pass too soon.
•Be aware of rural obstacles that may exist, like mailboxes, narrow bridges, road signs, deep side ditches, wildlife, escaped livestock and spilled materials.
Farmers, likewise, should employ these common-sense suggestions:
•Place SMV emblems on all equipment
•Be sure that an SMV emblem is on rear-most equipment and visible. For example, if an SMV emblem is on your tractor, and you are moving a large round hay bale on a 3-point hitch-mounted mover, the emblem may be blocked.
•Make sure signs have not fallen off
•Replace faded and broken signs
•Functional flashing amber or red lights should also be and displayed. This is especially important at night.
We all share the road. Let’s all try to be patient out there this fall. By practicing extra caution, you may save a life. That life may be your own!

John Woodmansee is the extension educator for Noble and Whitley counties with the Purdue Extension office in the area of agriculture and natural resources.