Harvest Season Safety for Farmers and Motorists

The smell of peanut dust in the air, tractors on the road, and fields of white snow can only mean one thing. It’s officially harvest season here in rural Virginia and North Carolina. It’s a beautiful sight in our area but, it also means motorists are more likely to encounter farm equipment in their daily travels.

Most farm equipment operates at a speed somewhere between 15 – 25 mph. If a car is traveling at 50 mph it has less than 10 seconds to avoid crashing into the back of a tractor moving 20 mph. That’s only 400 feet! To put this in perspective, the length of a football field is 360 feet.

When traveling in farming communities here are several safety precautions to reduce the chance of farm equipment accidents:

  • Reduce your speed when you spot a piece of farm equipment. If you see something ahead of you that you can’t recognize slow down until you properly identify the object.
  • Do not speed past farm equipment. Are the 3 seconds you’re gaining from legally speeding past machinery worth it? The turbulence caused by your vehicle passing can cause the machinery to quickly become unstable and sway resulting in an overturned machine or other accident.
  • Watch for hand or turn signals. Just because the machinery is pulling to the far right doesn’t mean they are pulling over for you to pass. Wide turns are necessary meaning they must veer right in order to turn left. If the operator is signaling you to wait, trust them.
  • Look out for Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblems and amber flashing lights. SMV signs are used for machinery traveling under 25 mph. Flashing amber lights often mark the far left and far right of the equipment traveling the roadway. There could also be reflective tape on the outer extremities. Fully take in all portions of the farm equipment before you attempt to pass safely.

And lastly…

  • Do not expect equipment to move over for you. Driving with one set of wheels off the road can substantially increase the risk of overturn or other accident. Consider stopping and pulling over on the side of the road or into a driveway if you can safely. This allow the operator to safely continue down the road to his/her destination.

Farmers don’t ‘want’ to be in the road anymore than they have to. However, it’s a reality of the job when moving equipment from farm to farm. Remember the above precautions to allow a safe and accident free harvest season. Always remember it’s someone’s life, livelihood, loved one, and the meal we eat every day.

Resources and more information:





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