Although tractors, combines and other modern agricultural equipment are marvelous machines in farm fields, they are not designed for speed and agility on roadways. To prevent crashes during this year’s harvest season, motorists will need to be patient and share the road with slow-moving agricultural implements.
For their own safety as well as the safety of farmers, drivers need to slow down immediately whenever they see a florescent orange slow-moving vehicle emblem on the rear of a tractor or other piece of equipment. They also must be alert, focused and patient while trying to pass slow-moving vehicles.
“You should not pass a slow-moving vehicle if you cannot see clearly in front of the vehicle you intend to pass,” Captain Nicholas R. Wanink of the Wisconsin State Patrol North Central Region said.
With a recent law change, drivers may pass a slow-moving vehicle in a no passing zone if the slow-moving vehicle is traveling at less than one-half of the posted speed limit and the passing can be completed safely.
For their part, farmers and other operators of slow-moving vehicles must follow safety regulations. According to state law, farm tractors, agricultural implements, animal-drawn vehicles or other vehicles that are normally operated at speeds below 25 miles-per-hour must display a “Slow Moving Vehicle” (SMV) sign on the left rear of the vehicle. In all cases-even when the vehicle is not a SMV-if it is operated during hours of darkness, the front and rear of the vehicle must have lights (white to the front, red to the rear) and the lights must be illuminated. A citation for failure to display a SMV sign or a violation of the lighting requirement each costs $162.70.
Vehicles traveling slower than normal traffic must stay as far to the right side of the roadway as practical. This does not mean slow vehicles must drive on the shoulder of the road although this is allowed if there is room to do so safely.
“Farmers and others using animal-drawn vehicles on a roadway have the same rights and responsibilities as operators of motor vehicles,” Wanink says. “You should be careful not to frighten the animals. Do not sound your horn or flash your lights near them, and give the animals plenty of room when passing. Common sense, caution, and courtesy will go a long way to keeping our rural roadways safe during the harvest season.”
More information about requirements for farm equipment on roadways is available on the WisDOT web site at www.dot.wisconsin.gov/statepatrol/docs/farm-req.pdf.