"Why are those pesky farmers out on the road with that big equipment, slowing down and blocking traffic so we can't get any where. They shouldn't be allowed on the road with that stuff."
This is a comment we hear this time of the year from an occasional person who lives in town and doesn't understand why farmers have to travel some highways with the farm equipment needed to get crops planted while the weather is good.
Dramatic changes have taken place in farming in this area over the past 25 to 50 years, from what was a strong dairy farming area to one of much more crop farming. This has resulted in larger fields and bigger, more efficient farm equipment.
Farm size, in many situations, has also increased.
This has brought about the need to move farm equipment on the roads to get from field to field to get the corn or soybeans or other crops planted. In many cases, even the smaller farms have to get on the highway to get to their fields.
So we all need to expect some delays as farmers move their equipment to get the job done. We need to keep in mind that they are producing the food that we may have on our dinner table tonight.
When you spot a piece of farm equipment on the road, slow down right away. If you are driving down the road at 55 miles an hour, you can close a 300-foot gap and overtake a tractor going 15 mph in about in about 15 seconds. So be patient and slow down immediately.
Research indicates that many accidents involving farm equipment happen when the slow-moving vehicle is turning left off the highway. They have to slow down to make the turn, and even though they use turn signals or hand signals, drivers get in a hurry try to pass while the they are turning.
Motorists should be aware of several things when they see a piece of farm equipment going down the road.
Watch for hand signals from the equipment operator. They may have to veer to the right to make the left turn into the drive so watch for their signals.
Look for the triangular shaped slow moving vehicle emblem on the back of the farm equipment. The law requires that they be displayed on the rear of all slow-moving farm equipment on the highway.
Watch for flashing lights on farm equipment. They may mark the size of the equipment.
Don't pull out in front of a slow-moving vehicle, then slow down. Farm equipment is heavy and can't stop as quickly as a car or pickup truck.
Never pass farm equipment in a no-passing zone.
Farmers, on the other hand, can also help when moving equipment down the road. Try to find the times when traffic is lightest, not during rush hour when many folks are getting to or from work. If possible, provide an escort vehicle with a flashing warning light behind the farm equipment. Don't move equipment at dusk or after dark. It's hard to see. When possible, pull over and let traffic go by.
One of the most important things to remember is patience. Farmers aren't on the roads unless it is necessary, so be patient with them. And keep in mind that they are busy putting an abundant supply of food on your table so you can eat well.
Everyone suffers when there is an accident of any kind. So watch for that farm equipment when you are traveling our highways.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer.