If you have not noticed, corn and soybean harvest is in full swing right now. Farmers have been busy since planting tending to crops and harvesting alfalfa and shorter season vegetables. Now is the time to be even more careful as you are going to see a lot more combines, trucks, tractors and wagons on the roads.
Motorists, please be patient. Most farm machines are traveling 25 mph or less. While coming up to a farm machine traveling along the road, slow down. It takes just five seconds to close the gap between a tractor traveling 15-20 mph and a vehicle traveling 55 mph. Following a ‘slow’ tractor might make it seem like you are adding hours onto the commute but following a tractor that is traveling 20 mph for two miles will only add six minutes onto your journey. Think about how much time you would lose if you caused an accident…or worse.
Never assume you can just pass, especially on hills and curves, as it is illegal to pass an Implement of Husbandry (IOH) or an Ag Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in a no passing zone. Be careful near intersections where the machinery could be making a left turn; passing at intersections is very dangerous.
Another point to remember is that farm equipment is very large and cannot stop on a dime. I have had many people pass me just 100 feet before a stop sign, which makes it extremely difficult to stop safely. Please slow down – we are all trying to get somewhere.
Farmers, make sure you’ve checked all your safety equipment. Check to see all flashing lights are working properly. On older equipment, you can place magnetic amber lights on for extra safety. Here is a checklist to reference before hitting the roadways:
- Make sure equipment has a Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign that is in good condition and clean.
- Utilize reflective tape for increased visibility.
- Make sure your hitch pin is secured so it does not fall out from bumps in the road. Use a locking hitch pin and a safety chain.
- Drive a safe speed for whatever you are pulling behind the tractor.
- Lock the brake pedals together so if you need to stop quickly you do not hit the right or left brake separately and put your machine, and others, in danger.
- Clean your mirrors and windows.
- Check your tires to ensure they are inflated properly and are in good condition.
- Utilize turn blinkers to communicate to other vehicles when you are making a turn as they do not know where your field driveways are. If your equipment does not have turn blinkers, utilize hand signals to indicate a turn.
When traveling down the road, pull over when it is safe and legal to do so if you see a long line of cars behind you so they can pass – everyone will appreciate this gesture.
To sum it all up, safety is everyone’s responsibility. This topic is important to me because I care about my wife and kids and want to return home to them, safely, at the end of the day. I also want you to stay safe so you can continue to enjoy time with your friends and family. We may be strangers who work in different career areas, but we all want to get home to our loved ones at the end of the day. Let’s not meet by accident!
Pete Badtke is a dairy farmer from Ripon, Wisconsin where he milks 90 cows and runs about 300 acres of land. Pete started farming in 1987. He has been married for 16 years to his wife Lori and has 2 daughters, Kasie and Sarah. Pete currently serves as the Green Lake County Farm Bureau president and as chairman of Calvary Lutheran Church in Princeton.