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Drivers: Be Aware Of Farm Equipment

It’s a common, and sometimes frustrating sight in rural areas. Large, slow-moving farm equipment can cause problems on our roads. The MSHP offers advice to help drivers and farmers reach their destinations safely.

By Mike Scott

It happened to me just a few days ago. I was driving westbound on Hwy. 136, but it could have been any road in northeast Missouri. I was approaching a slow-moving eastbound farm tractor, followed by a pickup truck pulling a wagon loaded (or maybe even overloaded) with round hay bales.

Suddenly, a white car darted out from behind the hay bales, attempting to pass both the truck and tractor, as the oncoming traffic, led by me, hit the brakes. Honking the horn didn’t even get their attention as they raced past the now-slowed-down line of traffic.

As summer approaches, many drivers may think there are fewer farm vehicles on the highway, but I can tell you, as someone who drives in a lot of northeast Missouri counties, there are plenty of tractors, wagons, hay rakes and balers, sprayers, plows, discs, and harrows on the roads. And as soon as the winter wheat is ready, we’ll see combines again.

I recently spoke with Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesperson Sgt. Eric Brown, who offered this advice for dealing with farm implements on the highways.

“First of all, have some patience,” Brown said. “You might be in a place where you can’t get safely around them. Be patient.”

According to statistics on the MSHP website, there were 210 accidents involving farm implements in Missouri in 2016. Fifty-two of those accidents had injuries, and there were seven fatalities.

Missouri law allows farm implements to be operated on highways. The farm equipment is required to have the slow-moving vehicle (SMV) on the back end, and is required to have lights at night.

“Moving farm machinery on a highway under the best conditions is hazardous. The driver of farm equipment, when traveling on a highway, must continually keep in mind he is traveling at a very low speed compared to the speed of other vehicles,” states a farm safety pamphlet published by the MSHP.

Brown suggests the following for farmers:
-Plan your route, and know where you’re going.
-Know where safe places to pull off the highway are located.
-Make sure your lights are functioning properly.
-Keep your vehicle clean to increase visibility.
-When possible, have an escort vehicle.
-Avoid travel in low-light or foggy conditions.
-Keep as far right as possible.
-Move over and stop so cars can pass when you’re in a safe location.

Brown offered this advice for motorists: “It’s farming season. Be aware that these large, slow-moving vehicles are out there. Pay attention to the business of driving, and that includes watching for motorcycles and kids on bikes. It also might be a good idea to leave 5-10 minutes early, like you would during inclement weather.”