Caution: Share the Road With Farm Equipment

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension
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farmer on tractor in field

As growers prepare for the 2020 planting season, please be mindful that you may need to share the road with large, slow-moving farm equipment. With over 46,000 acres of farmland in Pamlico County, agricultural production is a familiar site along our roadways. During the planting and harvest seasons, farmers are often on the road early in the mornings and late into the evenings. Since most farm equipment moves less than 25 miles per hour, always use caution and obey the rules of the road.

During the planting season, growers will be cultivating soil, applying fertilizer and weed control products, and planting seed. Equipment that you might share the road with includes: tractors with tillage and planting equipment attached, application spreaders and sprayers, and various trucks and haulers that will help to move equipment and supplies. Each piece of equipment varies in size, requiring different levels of space to safely navigate the roadway. Road shoulders, bridges, and tight turns present hazards for both equipment and other vehicles sharing the road. Think before you pass equipment and allow the equipment operator the space necessary to safely maneuver around obstacles.

Most of the crashes that involve farm equipment occur on a clear day, during daylight hours, and/or on a dry, paved surface. Typical crashes with farm equipment include sideswipes and angle crashes. These types of crashes occur while farm equipment is turning left and while a motorist is trying to pass. In some cases, a farmer uses a left-hand signal, and drivers mistake this as a sign for them to pass. Many farmers will use hand signals to warn drivers when they are turning or stopping. The key to safety when sharing the road with farm equipment is to be patient.

Motorists can avoid other potentially dangerous encounters with slow-moving vehicles by following these driving tips:

  • Recognize and respect the slow-moving vehicle and when you see one, slow down as if you are approaching a stoplight.
  • Watch for hand signals and equipment turn signals. Do not assume that a slow-moving vehicle pulling to the right side of the road is going to turn right or is going to let you pass. Make sure the driver sees you before you try to pass.
  • Keep your distance and be sure to slow down when you see a slow-moving vehicle flashing a turn signal.
  • Be patient. It is not easy for the farmer to move aside to let you pass, especially when road shoulders are questionable.
  • Watch out for road signs, mail boxes, and other obstructions on the side of road. Equipment operators must navigate around these objects, requiring wider use of the roadway.
  • Always make sure the road ahead and behind is clear before you pass. Do not depend on the driver to wave you around.
  • SLOW DOWN when passing. An equipment operator may not even know you are behind them. Passing at high speed creates both danger for you and the operator.
  • Remember, farm equipment cannot stop or slow down as quickly as an automobile. Try not to cut equipment off or cause them to stop short.

This spring, enjoy your ride around Pamlico County, and watch out for our farmers as they move their equipment from field to field. Remember to always approach farm equipment with care. These farm equipment operators are your neighbors and friends who must navigate the roadway with the same caution and respect that you do. Help them protect both you and themselves by sharing the road.