Sharing the Road with Farm Equipment

In the spring and fall, farmers often have to drive their tractors onto Illinois roadways to plant and harvest their crops. Farmers have a right to be on the road, so we must drive carefully to keep ourselves, and them, safe. Make sure you know how to keep yourself and other road users safe while driving near farm equipment.

Driving Safely Around Large Equipment

Farm equipment is large and loud; therefore, there is a good chance that the driver operating it can’t see or hear your vehicle. Here are some things you can do to minimize your risk of accidents.

  • Pass with Caution: Farmers may or may not see you trying to pass them, so be careful when starting your maneuver. Always follow the rules of the road and do not pass on hills, curves, or when anything else blocks your view.
  • Slow Down: As soon as you see farm equipment on the road, slow down. It can be difficult to know how fast someone in front of you is going…but it’s a sure bet your car is going faster than any large equipment.
  • Leave Space: Stay at least 50 feet away from farm equipment on the road in any direction. Like large trucks, farm equipment can’t maneuver or stop as quickly as normal vehicles.
  • Understand How Farmers Drive: Large vehicles often have to make wide turns; therefore, they may swing wide, even crossing into the opposing traffic’s lane or into the shoulder, to turn. Brush up on driver hand signals to close the communication gap, as tractors don’t come equipped with turn signals.
  • Obey Slow-Moving Vehicle Signs: Some large machinery will post a triangular indicator that’s red or orange on the back of their vehicle to signal a low maximum speed. If you’re going 55 behind a tractor that’s going 15, you can catch up to them in a matter of seconds.
  • Wide Load: Many farm vehicles are wider than typical lanes. Before passing, look out for flags, lights, or reflective tape marking the edges of oversize cargo.

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The Dangers of Farm Vehicle Crashes

Farm vehicle crashes rarely make the news, but when they happen, they’re often dangerous. In fact, rural Illinois counties have almost twice as many fatalities from car accidents, and overall, accidents in rural areas happen more often and cause more damage than those in urban areas.

Many drivers may assume that, as in truck accidents, the driver of the smaller vehicle will sustain more injuries. This is not true—and in fatal farm vehicle crashes, the driver of the farm vehicle was twice as likely to die than the driver or passengers in the other vehicle. While our cars are made with countless safety features designed to counteract the dangers of the road, farm vehicles are designed primarily for field use and therefore have different safety considerations in mind.

What Should I Watch Out For?

Some circumstances lead to more car-farm vehicle accidents than others. Keep them in mind when you’re on the road so you can avoid making the same mistakes as other drivers.

  • Rear-Ending a Farm Vehicle: Accounting for close to half of farm vehicle accidents analyzed in an Iowa study, accidents involving a fast car and slow farm vehicle most often occur when it’s dark (or partially dark) out.
  • Passing During a Left Turn: Because farm vehicles don’t have turn signals, some drivers misinterpret their intention to turn and believe the farm vehicle is pulling over to let them pass.
  • Improper Passing: Drivers may misjudge the size of farm vehicles when planning their pass and end up colliding with a vehicle that is wider or longer than they expected. Though farm vehicle operators should use brightly colored or reflective indicators to demarcate wide or long loads, drivers should use extra caution when navigating around these vehicles.

Many Accidents Are Avoidable

Illinois officials are constantly working to understand and correct for dangers involving farm equipment and other abnormal vehicles on the roads, but it’s up to us to take their advice and follow the law. Getting stuck behind a slow-moving farm vehicle can be irritating, especially if you’re in a hurry—but improperly handling the situation can result in accidents that cause severe injuries or even death.

If you’ve been in a car accident, our team may be able to help. But, we’d much rather help you avoid one. Make sure you and your family know these best practices for sharing the road with farm vehicles so everyone can have a safe and fun fall season.

Need help after a car accident? Contact us online or call (618) 505-1660 to speak to a personal injury lawyer today.

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