Planting season is underway, and that means motorists need to pay extra attention.
Farm equipment can be very large and can move slowly on county roads and highways. That calls for patience and safe driving practices, Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer said in a news release.
“Tractors, planters and other equipment are large, move slowly and can be dangerous to pass,” Meyer said. “This time of year means motorists need to be extra vigilant when driving.”
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture also is urging motorists and the state’s 94,000 farmers to slow down, be alert and patient this spring.
“Indiana is the eighth largest farming state in the country and a national leader in the production of traditional row crops, like corn and soybeans,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, secretary of agriculture and rural development. “Whether you live in rural, urban or suburban Indiana, remain alert on the road this spring as you may encounter large farm equipment moving between fields.”
In 2020, three vehicles were involved in crashes with farm equipment in Indiana, which resulted in two deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The website Hungry for Truth offers five safety tips all drivers should follow:
1. Keep an eye out. Operators of farm machinery cannot always see motorists. That means drivers need to pay close attention, especially when driving by fields being planted because equipment could unexpectedly enter the road from a field.
2. Slow down. Most farm equipment travels well below the speed limit, often 25 mph or less. Drivers should slow down and stay a safe distance behind any equipment. Remember, the heavier the equipment, the longer it will take the operator to slow down. They cannot react quickly.
3. Stay a safe distance away. This creates greater visibility and will allow the operator to make wide turns. Be aware that farm machinery may appear to be turning in a different direction than they really are.
4. Use caution when passing. We’re all busy and in a hurry to reach our destination. That makes passing farm equipment an attractive option. Use extreme caution when passing, ensuring the road is wide enough and that there is no oncoming traffic.
5. Be aware of surroundings. Don’t become distracted by farm equipment and miss mailboxes, bridges, animals on the road or other obstacles when driving.
“Please use common sense, slow down and be patient for the next several weeks,” Meyer said. “Living in a community in which agriculture plays such a key role is a blessing, and it requires us all to pay extra attention this time of year.”
Farmers also can take steps to help keep everyone safe. This includes having all lighting and warning signs in place as required by law and avoiding travel during early morning and evening hours.
Indiana law also requires operators of slow-moving vehicles to pull to the right when they’re able if three or more vehicles are behind them to allow the drivers to safely pass.
“Indiana’s corn and soybeans are utilized for a magnitude of products we depend on every day, such as food products like corn chips and sweeteners, livestock feeds so we can enjoy our favorite meats, fuel for our cars and more,” said Don Lamb, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. “It is critical that farmers get their crops planted in a timely manner to ensure a successful crop. If you encounter farm equipment on the roads, be patient and courteous so everyone can make it home safely to their families.”
For information from the ISDA, visit isda.in.gov.