Reducing traffic accidents involving farm equipment

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

According to the Michigan State Police, more than 150 traffic accidents involving farm equipment have occurred each year since 2005. On average, these accidents account for 43 injuries and four fatalities per year. Since the accidents involve both farmers and motorists, each party must do their part to reduce accidents involving farm machinery.

Recommendations for motorists

  • Slow down immediately when you first see farm equipment ahead of you on the roadway. Farm equipment usually travels less than 25 miles per hour. It takes less than seven seconds for a car traveling at 55 mph to crash into the back of a tractor 400 feet away.
  • Be patient and wait for a safe opportunity to pass farm equipment. The tractor or combine operator will probably be aware of your presence and will pull over when possible as traffic begins to back-up.
  • Drive defensively when approaching on-coming farm equipment. Impatient motorists may pull out suddenly to pass the farm equipment and enter your lane.
  • Be on the alert when you see amber flashing lights ahead in either lane.
  • Be prepared to stop at railroad crossings when following a vehicle towing an anhydrous ammonia tank. Anhydrous ammonia tanks look like the large propane gas tanks used by rural homeowners.

Recommendations for farmers

  • Always mount a Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem to all tractors, combines and implements transported on public roads.
  • Never use white lights on the rear of the tractor when driving on public roads. If you don’t have a rear red light, have an escort vehicle follow within 50 feet of the tractor or implement of husbandry.
  • Always use flashing amber warning lights on public roads.
  • Check to see if traffic is backing up behind you and pull over periodically when it is safe for cars to pass.
  • Use turn signals or proper hand signals to communicate your intentions to motorists.
  • Never travel left of the center of the road after dark, during poor visibility or when approaching the top of a hill or a curve.

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