Driving safe during harvest season

September brings on all of the things that I like about the fall. The nights are cool and crisp, and the days are sunny and mild. The leaves start to change color. Pumpkin sale wagons start sprouting up all over. The harvest season is upon us.

With the fall harvest also comes farmers with tractors and equipment on the roads. When you see a tractor ahead of you, please start slowing down from an adequate distance. Often the farm equipment is moving slower than you anticipate, so you will catch up quicker than you think you will.

According to the National Agriculture Safety Database, “A passenger car traveling at 55 miles per hour approaches a tractor traveling in the same direction at 15 miles per hour at a rate of 59 feet per second.  If the car does not slow down, it reduces the distance between itself and the tractor by the length of a football field in just five seconds.”

The average driver of a car traveling at 55 mph would take 224 feet to stop, leaving the driver in the above mentioned scenario only a few seconds to decide to slow down to avoid a collision.

Tractors and equipment are furnished with the slow moving vehicle emblem, reflectors, and lights to help you understand just how wide the equipment is. Turn signals are especially helpful to watch for, although, sometimes they may be obscured by the equipment being pulled by the tractor. The reflectors and lights are also to help you determine how far pieces of the equipment are protruding in the rear and to the sides as it can be hard to tell where the edges of the equipment are, especially at night.

Always use caution when passing. It is illegal to pass on a solid double yellow line. Be patient and wait for a dashed line and for the left lane to be free of oncoming traffic.

When traveling behind or in the opposite direction of farm equipment, it’s pertinent to watch where the equipment will be moving. Turns into field driveways are especially misleading as the tractor often has to make a slight swing to the right first before turning left to help the equipment following trail into the driveway properly. It is easy to mistake the slight turn to the right as an indicator that the equipment is turning right, when in fact the tractor and equipment is turning left.

Keeping these things in mind while driving on our Wisconsin roads this fall can help keep you and the farmer safe. Please remember that farmers are just trying to do their job.