Safety during spring planting


It’s that time of year when farmers head to the fields for spring planting. That means encountering farm equipment on rural roads across Ogle County. Roadway safety is important so let’s look at precautions we can all take to make travel safer.

If you live in or regularly visit a rural area, it’s likely that you’ve come across tractors and other farm equipment on the road. Getting stuck behind one can be frustrating at times, especially if you’re in a hurry, but in order to stay safe, it is important to stay patient and follow the rules of the road. These tips can help you learn how to safely share the road with farmers.

While it might feel like a major inconvenience to get stuck behind a slow-moving farm vehicle, try to keep in mind that the driver is simply doing their job — a job that’s vital to supplying us with the food and products we use every day. 

Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re driving among farm equipment on public roads.

Don’t Assume the Driver Can See or Hear You: Because of their size and noise level, the farm vehicle driver has limited visibility and may have trouble hearing car horns or other audible road warnings.

Be Aware of Signs and Signals: There are a variety of things to look out for when driving on rural roads. A reflective triangle and flashing hazard lights indicate a slow-moving vehicle (SMV), while oversize load signs or red flags let you know that the vehicle needs extra room to navigate. Keep an eye out for hand signals, too — farm equipment operators will often give a wave to let you know that you can pass them.

Be Aware of Pilot Vehicles: Sometimes an oversized load will be escorted by a second car or truck, known as a pilot vehicle. Allow them the same space and patience that you do the farm equipment.

Give Them Room: Most farm vehicles are much heavier than your average car, so they’ll need more braking distance. The farm vehicle — or any equipment it’s towing on the road — may also be wider than the lane they’re driving in and may require more space in order to navigate a turn.

Pass Cautiously: If you decide to pass the farm machinery, make sure you have ample room to do so. When you re-enter your lane in front of them, leave plenty of room behind you to allow the farm vehicle to stop if you need to slow down or brake suddenly. 

Practice Proper Driving Etiquette: Passing a farm vehicle at a high rate of speed is dangerous for you and the person operating the equipment. Try to pass the vehicle at a slower speed than you would if you were going around a standard car. As a general rule, you should slow down, remain visible and drive defensively when driving around farm vehicles. Practicing this kind of driving etiquette makes the road safer for all.

Farmers, you have a responsibility also.

Make Farm Equipment Visible with Lights and Flashers: Verify that all lights and flashers on your farm vehicle are working properly. Use warning flashers, flags, lights and slow-moving vehicle emblems on all equipment. Apply reflective tape to machines to improve visibility for motorists at dusk. Avoid traveling before dawn and after dusk if you can. If you need to drive during these times, ensure that your headlights are working. Headlights help you see and be seen.

Remember Your Farm Vehicle’s Size: Be mindful of the height of your farm equipment and avoid power lines, low bridges and other overhead obstacles. Check your towed equipment. All loads should be balanced and securely mounted.

Know Roads and When to Travel Them: Use care when traveling on soft/gravel shoulders, narrow bridges, loose gravel, bumps and deep ruts. Your farm equipment will handle these conditions differently than most passenger vehicles. Whenever possible, avoid busy roads during high-traffic times.

Communicate with Fellow Motorists: Use turn signals and hand signals whenever possible to communicate with fellow drivers. Obey all traffic laws.

Ron Kern is the manager of the Ogle County Farm Bureau.