The last couple of weeks have instilled in me this desperate need for sun and warmth. The warmer days of sunshine and being able to take the kids outside without bundling them up in warm, bulky clothing (that inevitably leaves our 17-month-old laying on her belly in the wettest and muddiest places) have definitely been teasers just increasing that longing for spring. While I don’t crop farm, those farmers are experiencing that longing so that spring planting ’19 can get started.
Farmers depend on our highways while they grow our food and fiber, especially during the busy farming season like spring planting and summer/fall harvest. That season seems, at least in northeastern Ohio, to just be getting shorter and shorter. I had hoped that while I was writing this, that farmers were going to have a little opportunity to get in the fields, but Mother Nature has other plans. But soon, our farmers will be out on the highways starting spring planting. In the push to get your crops in, it’s often a challenge for you to slow down and we all know that drivers on the roads are often rushed and distracted, and those two situations are dangerous.
So farmers, while it’s raining, double check that all your lights are working before planting starts, and check periodically throughout planting season. Ideally, check your lights each time you take the tractors and equipment out on the highway. Make sure that all farm equipment have a slow moving vehicle (SMV) sign. SMV signs must be displayed on all farm equipment designed to travel at speeds of 25 mph or less on the road. Any other use is illegal.
Use other safety alerts such as:
- Lights and reflectors
- Turn or hand signals
- Reflector tape (usually white, silver, or red)
- Lights from sunup to sundown
- An escort vehicle that may display a flashing light or warning lights
I’ve heard comments that farmers act like they own the road when they are on it. Well, it’s not intentional folks. The equipment is huge and heavy and we don’t have the luxury of only taking up one lane all the time. There are exemptions for farm equipment from width and length requirements, for good reason. It’s important for motorists to exercise patience and caution when coming up on farm equipment on the highways. Accidents occur when motorists hurry around farm vehicles, resulting in injury or death. Large farm equipment needs extra space when making turns, so when you see a farmer pulling over to the side of the road, slow down and even come to a stop. They may not be letting you pass; they may be trying to make a left turn.
Also, sometimes in order to avoid hitting guardrails or mailboxes, the farmer has to move into the center of the lanes. Most farmers will pull off or signal for you to pass when they find available safe spaces. Slow down when you see farm equipment, and avoid passing on double lines, curves, hill crests, or if there are several vehicles in line behind the farm equipment. Traffic laws are still in place for motorists in a personal vehicle on the roads. Watch for hand signals, turn signals, or other signs from the driver and equipment in case they are preparing to turn. Look for nearby driveways and field entrances that they may be using before making the decision to pass, and then when you do go for it, do it slowly and with caution and be sure to give the equipment plenty of space when you merge back in front of them.
Above all else, Be patient. Be Kind. Enjoy the view from behind. Those farmers have families waiting on them at home, too. Hoping for a safe and successful planting season.
Mandy Orahood is an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull Counties. Mandy grew up on a cattle farm in southeast Ohio and earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees in Livestock and Animal Sciences from The Ohio State University. Before working for Farm Bureau, she was a meat inspector with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Mandy can be reached at [email protected].