Tips for staying safe during planting time

By: Staff 07/11/2010 @ 11:00pm

Kelli Basset University of Illinois Extension

Every spring we hear about a neighbor who had a "close call" with another vehicle while traveling to the field with an implement. As fields and subdivisions increasingly meet one another, rural roadways are being shared by more drivers. Farmers, in turn, are traveling longer distances to fields, often times on busy routes.

As we prepare for the rush of spring planting, take the time to review the proper safety requirements before pulling onto the road.

Roadway safety is especially important for farmers who share the road with a general public increasingly unaware of farm machinery maneuverability/speed limitations. It is increasingly necessary to be seen and be recognized by motorists. Because tractors, and the implements being pulled behind them, usually travel less than 25 MPH, making sure that they are clearly marked will help motorists see them in time to slow down.

According to Bob Aherin, agricultural safety and health specialist with the University of Illinois Extension, there are over 275 motor vehicle collisions with farm equipment each year in Illinois.

It is important to make sure that lights are in working order and that all reflectors, including the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem, are in place before traveling. Sometimes it may be necessary to wipe the dust off of these safety devices following field work.

Enhancing the visibility of your equipment may help to avoid an accident. If traveling at night, equipment must have two red taillights mounted to the right and left extremities, two white headlights that are visible for 1,000 feet to the front and at least one flashing amber light. An amber flashing light mounted on the far right and left of tractors/ implements, visible to the front and rear, can also increase visibility.

Making a left-hand turn across the opposite lane of traffic can be a dangerous task when pulling an implement. Motorists following behind may not understand that a left turn requires a move to the right in preparation for the turn. Motorists may assume this action is intended to let them pass. Use turn signals accordingly and check mirrors that allow you to see behind the tractor or implement before executing the turn. Pulling onto the shoulder and waiting until the roadway is clear of traffic can aid in making this turn as well.

As farm equipment grows in size, so does the difficulty of transporting it between fields. If a piece of equipment being pulled extends into the opposite lane of traffic and the driver cannot reasonably move onto the shoulder, escort vehicles should be used. These vehicles, either a car or truck, should remain at least 500 feet in front and behind the tractor and implement and should operate flashing lights to warn oncoming vehicles.

Though it is with great caution that tractors and implements are typically moved throughout the countryside during the busy season, it is always best to error on the side of safety when traveling.