With a late start for farmers, planting season is just beginning in much of Michigan. That means tractors and other large farm equipment will be out on the road, both day and night. Every year we hear of accidents occurring between motorist and farm equipment, and with patience and knowledge, these accidents can be prevented.
“The big message is for people to be aware - both the farmer and the rural motorist,” said Craig Anderson, Manager of the Agricultural Labor and Safety Services program at Michigan Farm Bureau.
“When motorists see farm equipment on the road, they need to slow down immediately since that farm equipment may be traveling at speeds less than 20 miles an hour,” he said.
While tractor rollovers remain the leading cause of farm fatalities, roadway collisions surpassed grain bin accidents as the second-leading cause of farm-related death. According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning there were 223 road accidents involving farm vehicles in 2017.
“The worst accidents seem to involve farm tractors,” said Henry County, Illinois, Sheriff Gib Cady, pointing to the need for a continuous educational program to avoid those accidents.
Michigan Farm Bureau and Farm Bureaus across the country have led efforts to assure the red-and-orange Slow Moving Vehicle signs, or SMVs, are properly used to identify vehicles on the road that may present a hazard.
In Michigan, SMV emblems are required on any implement of husbandry, farm tractor, modified agriculture vehicle, or special mobile equipment. Farm tractors and implements of husbandry manufactured after Jan. 1, 2007, are required to meet the ASAE standards for slow moving vehicle emblems. A SMV is also required on every vehicle that has a maximum speed potential of 25 miles an hour operated on public highways.
The use of the SMV emblem is limited to the vehicles described above, and the use on any other vehicle or stationary object on the highway is prohibited under Michigan law.
Asking the non-farming public to be aware is important, just as it is for the farmer. Chip Petrea, researcher in agriculture safety and health at the University of Illinois, said farmers should be mindful as they transport equipment on public roadways.
“I recommend providing the traveling public with many signs to warn them you’re moving more slowly than they are”, said Petrea. “Newer equipment features a wide variety of warning systems, such as flashing lights, extremity markings and slow-moving vehicle signs, so bringing older equipment up to date to meet modern standards is essential.”
“Spending long hours in the field does not mean you should skip meals or rest. Without an adequate amount of sleep and proper nutrition, you’ll be operating at a reduced level in the fields. And watch out for children. Large pieces of equipment that make a lot of noise will attract a child’s attention. Avoid carrying your children on your farm equipment. If that’s not possible, make sure your child is secured,” said Petrea.
Farmers may be out later at night because of the spring planting, fertilizing and spraying needs, warns Anderson.
“Farmers are anxious to complete production in the narrow time mother-nature allows and stay out longer hours. They’re likely to be moving equipment down the road at night,” he said. “Share the road and treat those equipment operators as you would want to be treated.”