It is harvest time, and here in Washington County, our beautiful,
rural landscape is home to many crops that will need to be brought in over the next few weeks.
As Washington County Sheriff, I want to take this opportunity to offer tips to drivers and farmers so we can all be safe this time of year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are more than 1,000 farm vehicle crashes each year in the US. 75% of those accidents result in injury, with a higher proportion of the injuries being sustained by the driver of the non-farm vehicle.
In 2018, the year for which we have the most recent data, there were 92 fatal farm equipment crashes nationwide, with two of
those occurring in Indiana.
These and other accidents are tragic, and there are some simple steps we can take to be safer on the roadway while the important work of crop harvesting occurs.
In the coming weeks, drivers will be encountering slow-moving farm equipment on Washington County roadways. While the term “farm equipment” encompasses a wide range of vehicles, the most common types motorists will encounter during harvest season include tractors, combines, grain carts, grain wagons and large trucks hauling agricultural products. These vehicles are wide, sometimes taking up most of the roadway, and often travel at speeds no greater than 25 mph.
The following list includes several safety tips for motorists approaching large farm equipment:
· Most farmers will pull over when they are able to let you pass, but it may take time for them to get to a safe place to do so. Be careful and patient when passing.
· Allow plenty of time to get to your destination, be aware of alternate routes and avoid distractions.
· Do not pass within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad grade crossing, bridge, elevation structure, or tunnel.
· Farm equipment is wide, sometimes taking up most of the roadway. Exercise caution when passing.
· Do not tailgate farm vehicles, as they might have to make sudden stops along the road.
· Do not try to pass a slow-moving vehicle on the left without ensuring that the vehicle is not planning a left turn. It may appear that the driver is pulling over for you to pass when it is actually preparing to turn. You will drive right into its path,
endangering yourself and the farmer. While we do our best to share the road with farmers and their machinery, it’s also important for farmers to show other drivers a similar courtesy. Here are some safety tips for farmers:
· In Indiana, farmers are required by law to have a slow-moving vehicle sign on the back of their machinery if it moves more slowly than 25 miles per hour. The sign should be mounted 3 to 5 feet above the pavement and in the center of the load, or as close as possible. Red flags are not substitutes for SMV signs, and signs
need to be visible to all drivers and not damaged.
· In addition, all equipment lights must be working correctly and be easy for other drivers to see.
· Farmers should also be careful when towing equipment. Operators should not tow more than two implements. Make sure any towing equipment is visible.
Indiana state law says that where flashers are required on tractors, flashing lights on the tractor or on a pickup are sufficient, and there is no need for flashing lights at the rear of the towed piece. However, farm equipment operators should take
responsibility to make sure all flashing lights are visible. If the hauled equipment blocks the flashing lights on the tow vehicle, then flashing lights could be required on the equipment.
· There is also a limit to how much farm machinery can disturb the natural pace of traffic. If three or more vehicles are behind the farm machinery and cannot pass safely on the left, the driver is required to pull off to the right to allow cars to pass if able to do so safely.
As your Sheriff, I never want to see someone injured or killed in a farm equipment accident.
I know the people of our community appreciate our farmers, and that our farmers respect and share access to the roadways.
If we all work together by following roadway safety guidelines and laws, we can ensure we will have a safe and successful harvest season for everyone.