Contrary to the opinion of many an anxious or even angry driver, farm equipment is allowed by law to maneuver on roadways in order to get from farm to field or back, and it's the time of year when we all need to be on the lookout to keep everybody safe.
The Berrien County Sheriff's Department today has issued a reminder to drivers everywhere in the county that the arrival of spring and summer means that farmers are out planting crops and many farm vehicles will be sharing the rural roads with the flow of rapidly moving traffic. Farm equipment is allowed by law and most times must operate on roadways to get from their farm to fields or field to field. Just as you are allowed to operate your car, truck or SUV on public roadways, farmers are legally allowed to operate farm equipment on those same roads.
Farm equipment may be wider than one lane, or in some cases wider than the road and travels at slow speeds, typically 10 to 15 mph. If you are approaching a piece of wide farm equipment, slow down and be patient. The farmer understands that your trip may be delayed and they most times will pull off the road at the first available safe location to allow you to pass. Patience is necessary to ensure the safety of you and the operators of slow-moving farm equipment. As Undersheriff Chuck Heit reminds us, "We all have the obligation to share the road in a safe manner."
He offers up these safety tips for drivers who find themselves following or approaching farm equipment:
- Pass with caution if a farmer has pulled off the road to allow you to pass, or if they cannot pull off and you feel you can pass in a safe manner.
- Be watchful of other vehicles behind you that may also try to pass.
- Do not pass if you must enter the oncoming traffic lane unless you can see clearly ahead of you and the farm vehicle you plan to pass.
- Do not pass if there are curves or hills ahead that may block your view or the view of oncoming vehicles.
- Do not pass in a designated “No Passing Zone” or within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad crossing or bridge.
- Do not assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to let you pass. Due to the size of some farm implements, the farmer must use wide left-hand turns. If you are unsure, check for turn signals or operator hand signals. Also, check the left side of the road for driveways, gates or any place a farm vehicle might turn into.
- Do not assume the farmer can see you or knows you are there if you are following. Most operators are regularly checking traffic behind them and newer farm equipment is well-equipped with mirrors but farmers must spend most of the time looking ahead to keep equipment safely on the road and watch for oncoming traffic.