Tips for staying safe while driving your tractor this spring

Steven A. Freeman

Warmer temperatures and dryer conditions are in the forecast and farmers will soon be in the fields in full-force. That means more equipment will be on the roads in the coming days.

Moving farm equipment on public roads can be a dangerous activity. Farm operators need to drive defensively and remain alert every second they are on the road.

Steven Freeman, a professor in agricultural systems and bioengineering at Iowa State University, reminds equipment operators of some important dos and don’ts this spring.

Injuries can happen

Injuries can happen when farm equipment operators:

  • Lack the experience to handle the heavy, slow moving machinery.
  • Drive too fast, particularly when pulling a heavy load or turning.
  • Drive partially over the centerline.
  • Drive partially on the shoulder and partially on the main road surface.
  • Run into a tree or other fixed object.

A major reason for farm machinery incidents on public roads is the difference in speed between automobiles and agricultural equipment. Motorists approach the slow moving farm equipment so quickly that they only have a few seconds to identify the hazard and react appropriately.

“That’s why it is so important for farm equipment to be highly visible and properly identified with a slow moving vehicle sign which must be visible from 500 feet away,” said Steven Freeman, professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University. “SMV signs must be kept clean, and faded or damaged signs should be replaced.”

Tractors must be equipped with lights if operated on public roads at night, or under conditions of reduced visibility. Highway travel requires headlights, red taillights and reflectors. Flashing amber lights provide day and night warning to traffic approaching from either direction. The more highly visible the equipment is, the better.

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