The nip in the air of a cool fall morning and crunch of leaves underfoot are hallmark characteristics of autumn weather in Illinois. For many Illinoisans, these indicators prompt a visit to a local pumpkin patch or apple orchard. For farmers, they mean it’s time to head to the field down the road for harvest, with hopes that other drivers use caution while navigating around large farm equipment.
With so many people traveling on rural roads this season, it takes every motorist acting responsibly to ensure each of us gets home safely at the end of the day.
If you’ve never ridden in the cab of a combine or tractor, you may not know how difficult it can be for farmers to see other vehicles while maneuvering from field to field. Limited visibility means that when other drivers on the road get in a hurry and fail to slow down or choose to quickly pass our equipment, situations can become treacherous and, in some cases, deadly.
So how can drivers stay safe around slow-moving vehicles?
- Look for the bright orange triangle that indicates a vehicle is slow moving. When traveling behind large equipment, people should immediately slow down and leave the distance of several car lengths between their vehicle and the one in front of them.
- Before passing, the driver should always look for a clear signal from the person in the cab of the combine or tractor, only passing when it is safe and legal to do so. Remember that slow-moving vehicles make wide turns, so if you see the driver swinging to the right, do not assume they are moving out of your way; they may be preparing for a left turn.
Be prepared to encounter slow-moving vehicles at all times of the day and night. Many farm families work well into the evenings to harvest their crops and transport them to local storage facilities.
In addition to watching for agriculture equipment on the road, drivers should also keep a lookout for semitrailers hauling goods.
Truck drivers play a critical role in the supply chain of food, fuel and fiber that each of us depends on. Transporting a large amount of goods means these drivers are often tasked with carrying heavy loads that slow their abilities to pick up speed or come to immediate stops. Giving these drivers room and being aware of their blind spots is essential.
This time of year means long shifts in the field for many Illinois farm families, but it’s also a time for agriculture to celebrate a bountiful harvest. As we prepare for upcoming holiday festivities that often include sharing a meal with friends and family, we must all work together to keep the roads safe.
This harvest season, remember to slow down, use caution and take your time traveling around slow-moving vehicles and agriculture equipment. You never know when taking these actions might mean the difference between one or both parties making it home safely.
• Richard Guebert Jr. is president of the Illinois Farm Bureau. This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.