Farmers and motorists can work together to prevent traffic collisions involving farm equipment

Motorists and farmers can use these practical recommendations to avoid traffic collisions involving farm equipment.

Motorists and farmers can share the road and prevent traffic collisions involving farm equipment. Photo credit: BEV Norton,
Motorists and farmers can share the road and prevent traffic collisions involving farm equipment. Photo credit: BEV Norton,

According to the Michigan State Police, between 150 and 212 traffic collisions involving farm equipment have occurred in the state each year since 2005. On average, 174 collisions involving farm equipment have occurred causing 63 injuries and three fatalities each year in Michigan. An alarming trend is that number of collisions involving farm equipment appears to be increasing in recent years. Over the past 10 years, 2014 ranked number one with 212 crashes, 2013 ranked number two with 207 crashes and 2012 ranked number four with 181 crashes.

Some counties have more of these types of events than others due to the intensity of the agriculture, the number of motorists and the terrain. Annual collision statistics for individual counties can be obtained online at the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Statistics webpage.

Traffic collisions involving farm equipment and the injuries and fatalities they cause can be prevented. Whether you are a motorist or a farmer, please do your part to make our public roads safer by implementing the practices listed below. This is a shared responsibility for everyone.

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 an opportunity to safely pass farm equipment. The tractor or combine operator will probably be aware of your presence and will try to accommodate if 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 consider how to let traffic pass. Consider pulling over to the shoulder when it is safe for your vehicle.
  • 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.

This article was produced by the SMaRT project (Soybean Management and Research Technology). The SMaRT project was developed to help Michigan producers increase soybean yields and farm profitability. SMaRT is a partnership between Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Soybean Checkoff program.

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