Spring is planting season and that means more farm equipment on the nation's rural roadways. Because farm machinery such as tractors, planters and other equipment takes up more than its share of the road — and often can't travel at more than 25 mph — it can lead to dangerous situations for everyone on the road.
Studies also show that when you add additional factors such as higher traffic volume, higher posted speed limits, and smaller road widths, there is a higher occurrence of farm equipment crashes.
For example, in 2014, the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety reported a five-year average of 74 accidents related to farm equipment, including 29 of which involved injuries or death.
Moreover, data obtained from the Iowa Department of Transportation from 2005 to 2011, showed a total of 1,371 farm equipment crashes over the 6-year period. As traffic volume increased, the odds of a crash occurring also increased. Roadways with posted speed limits between 50 and 60 mph were associated with higher odds of having crashes on them compared to roadways with speeds less than 35 mph.
Fleets who drive on rural roads should reminded to be extra vigilant in spring and fall, when farm equipment is more likely to be on the roads. Experts offer the following advice for safely sharing the road with farm machinery:
On rural roads, lanes are narrower yet farm equipment is much wider than the average vehicle. Add to that hills and curves, and the stage is set for an accident — especially for any driver traveling above the speed limit.
Look for Equipment Signals
Farm equipment features beacons and flashers to alert both oncoming drivers as well as those behind them. Be on the lookout, especially at dusk when the changing light makes everything more difficult to see.
Be patient. Tractors and other farm equipment are heavy and can only travel so fast — under the speed limit, typically. It may be frustrating to get stuck behind one of these vehicles, but slowing down and driving below the speed limit is the safest, smartest thing to do.
While state laws vary, often, rural roads will feature "no pass zones." Never attempt to pass farm equipment in a no pass zone Not only is it illegal, it is very dangerous and all too often leads to a collision.