We’ve all been there. You are in a hurry, your driving down the road, with places to be and things to do and worst of all, your hungry. Then ahead in the distance, there is a string of brake lights….yes another traffic jam. As you get closer you see flashing yellow lights. The thought of “construction again?” crosses your mind. As you pull up on the car in front of you, you then realize it isn’t construction at all, its a piece of farm equipment doing a mere 20 mph taking up nearly the whole road making it seemingly impossible to pass. Frustration overcomes you, then maybe a little anger because you will surely be late for your appointment, or whatever else it may be. But, eventually (after what seemed like an eternity) its your turn to pass. Still frustrated and maybe still angry for being late, you might honk in displeasure and wave at the farmer as you drive by (Ill let you count the amount of fingers used). But then life goes on, you pull into your favorite drive through and order up dinner to go (Ironic huh?) and get Safely on your way.
We’ve all been in those shoes before. Running late, in a hurry, and stuck in traffic. Its common everyday right? Happens all the time and at the end of the day everyone gets home safe. Not always. According to The Michigan Secretary of State:
From 2004 through 2009, more than 1,000 crashes involving farm equipment occurred in Michigan. Of those crashes, 272 involved injuries and 22 fatalities.
In the coming weeks, Harvest will begin to gear up across the Midwest. Drivers will see an increased number of Farm Equipment traveling our nations back roads, County Roads, and State Routes as well. One thing all of these pieces of Farm Equipment have in common is a simple triangular shaped reflective sticker or panel attached to them. Like the one below. Now I have to assume most of you reading this have a valid drivers licence and know your road signs, but lets take a short quiz as a refresher.
What is the name of this Sign?
What Does it Mean?
Where do you usually find it?
I know, its an easy one right? I hope it was. Here’s the answers:
What is the name of the sign?
SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle)
What does it Mean?
The vehicle it is attached to is moving at a reduced rate of speed, usually around or under 25mph.
Where do you usually find it?
Rear of a John Deere Combine with SMV
How’d you do? It was easy right?
These Slow Moving Vehicles present a challenge to their operators and other drivers alike. I personally, know all too well, that driving a slow, large, often tall and wide, piece of farm equipment from field to field has its challenges. Narrow roads, narrow bridges, low clearance on overhead bridges, construction, etc etc, are huge concerns just to name a few. However my (and other farmers) main concern is safety of the other drivers who are on the road as well as our own.
While all farm equipment legally has to have a SMV attached to it before it can be driven on the road, many late model combines and tractors have numerous flashing (hazard) lights as well as Beacon Lights to warn other drivers of their slower speeds. Still some drivers just don’t seem to notice and or respect the warnings these safety measures put out.
In my personal experience while driving farm equipment on the roads, I have been passed on the right (on the shoulder), been honked at numerous times, seen “the finger” waved my way more times than I can count, have had a few near misses, and have ran partially off the road in order to avoid an accident. I can go on and on. However have been lucky enough to have never been in an actual Tractor or Combine vs Car accident, though many others have, like this
From a farmers point of view, we understand that while driving our equipment on the roads presents a challenge to other drivers. However, moving our equipment from field to field via our nations roads is an important and necessary way for us to plant, care for and harvest our crops which help feed you and your family, as well as the world. Just like every other driver on the road, a farmers top priority is getting to the next location safely.
So next time you are on your way to work, and come up on a SMV, like a Tractor or Combine, please slow down, most farmers will try to give you some room to pass when its safe, then maybe even give a wave. Please remember,
As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down