Spring has sprung! This means tractors, planters, sprayers and fertilizer spreaders are traveling down the area roads. As a farmer, I am excited to get out in the fields and begin planting this year’s crops in hopeful anticipation for a bountiful harvest this fall. I am writing this article to help everyone, motorists and farmers alike, enjoy safe travels.
Motorists, please be patient. 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 5 mph and a vehicle traveling 55 mph. Most farm machines are traveling 25 mph or less. 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 cause 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 or an Ag Commercial Motor Vehicle in a no passing zone. Also, 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 for me to stop safely – just slow down, we’re all trying to get somewhere.
Farmers, please make sure you’ve checked all your safety equipment. Check to see all flashing lights are working properly. For 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 and that it is in good condition and clean.
- Reflective tape can also be placed on most farm implements 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. Are they inflated properly? Are they in good condition?
When traveling down the road, pull over, when the road shoulder width and condition allows, 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!
Peter Badtke is a dairy farmer from Ripon, Wisconsin where he milks 90 cows and runs about 300 acres of land. Peter started farming in 1987. He has been married for 16 years to his wife Lori and has 2 daughters, Kasie and Sarah. Peter currently serves as director on Green Lake County Farm Bureau board and as chairman of Calvary Lutheran Church in Princeton.