I will never forget the first time I rode with my friend’s older brother. He was still using a learner’s permit and begged his mom to let him drive on the way back to my house. As he traveled down our road, he came up behind a big tractor with a big disc with a couple vehicles already behind it. He let out some expletive about slow farm equipment that his mom really didn’t appreciate. I then informed him that the guy in the tractor was my dad.
Out in the country, there are certain times of the year during which we have an increased number farm equipment on public roads. Planting season is obviously one of them. In our neck of the woods, each field is smaller and we end up moving equipment from one farm to the next several times during the day. While farmers do their best to safely transport equipment from one field to the next with as little disruption of traffic flow as possible, that doesn’t mean you won’t see farm equipment on the road at some point, or that you won’t have to slow down.
Unfortunately, even short trips down the road to move farm equipment can be dangerous and it is so important that people traveling down country roads keep this in mind.
Over the weekend, we almost had one of these accidents. My dad was traveling down the road to get to the next field. He turned on his turn signal to caution a car behind him that he was about to turn left. Just as he was about to start the left-hand turn into the field, the car following him decided to pass. Thankfully, dad had time to stop and the car passed without incident. In fact, the person driving the car probably did not even realize what almost happened.
Almost accidents are scary enough, and actual accidents can cause serious injuries, including death. That’s why I feel it is so important to take a minute and issue a friendly Public Service Announcement for cars traveling on country roads during one of these busy seasons. Hopefully, all farm equipment traveling on the road will have a properly placed slow moving vehicle sign, but even if it doesn’t, here’s my three rules for making sure everyone makes it home safely.
1. Slow down as soon as you see farm equipment on the road. We can’t exactly travel very fast with our tractors, especially when hauling certain pieces of equipment, such as a planter or combine head. Check your speed and slow down right away, because it’s likely you’ll catch up to us before you realize it.
2. Don’t pass unless you know it’s safe. In fact, I would urge that you don’t pass at all, unless the person operating the tractor pulls off to give you extra room or signals that it is safe for you to pass. Farm equipment can be bulky and awkward, so you may not be able to see down the road as clearly as you think, especially on country roads that can be hilly. There are also often obstacles on the sides of the road that prevent us from safely pulling off. Besides, most tractors won’t be driven very far down the road anyway, so just like the example I described above, the tractor will probably turn off the road before long.
3. Be patient. Trust me, we aren’t trying to upset you or ruin your day. We’re just trying to do our job. Giving us a couple minutes of your time to get down the road is going to take a lot less time than if you end up in the hospital.