Give farmers a brake during fall harvest

Slow-moving vehicles will be on the streets this fall as farmers wrap up harvest. Farm equipment requires more room on the road.



October 19, 2021 - 9:39 AM

Harvest is in full swing in the Midwest. Whether you live on a farm, in town, or are just traveling through the area, everyone needs to be cautious and smart during this busy time of year. By making a few key decisions while driving through rural areas this fall, you could be saving your own live, or the life of someone else.

In a 2016 study conducted by the University of Iowa, College of Public Health, it was found that there were over 1100 collisions involving farm equipment in just 9 Midwest states. Kansas, being one of the states included in the study, is dominated by agriculture. Each fall, the rural roads and highways fill up with tractors, combines, and grain trucks working in a hurry to finish harvest. 

Of the 1100 collisions noted in the study, it was mentioned that the majority of those were head-on collisions. Farm equipment tend to be much wider than most other vehicles, and require a lot more room on a road. To avoid these kinds of collisions, it is important to understand how much room these pieces of equipment actually need, and to be aware of the best ways to give these farmers that extra room. This could be seen as simply slowing down and getting over for the farmer, or as fully getting off the road by pulling over or into a driveway. It is also smart to slow down, and get over while coming over a hill, so you are not surprised to see a large piece of equipment coming up the other side. 

Odds are, that if you are driving in rural Kansas between the months of September and December, you will encounter some form of farm equipment on the road. Knowing what to do in these situations could, quite possibly, be a matter of live or death. Tractors, combines and semi-trucks are often driving below the speed limit, and can halt traffic for the time they are on the roads. These slow-moving vehicles tend to create a line of cars waiting behind them. Be patient and only pass these vehicles when you are certain there is no oncoming traffic, and when you can clearly see the farmer has no obstacles in its way that could prompt a sudden turn.

It is important to be patient and give the equipment enough space to maneuver around. Tractors and combines are often wider than a single lane. They need room to fit through bridges, maneuver around road signs, and will take very wide turns into and out of their fields. Be aware of the drivers’ blind spots, and give them the room they need to safely travel.

Harvest time brings not only farm equipment on the roads, it also means that the year’s crops are the tallest they have been all summer. Not all county roads have stop signs, and even then, not everyone makes a complete stop. During the fall it is recommended to stop at every intersection when driving down county roads, especially when you cannot see over the crop in the surrounding fields. 

Farmers and ranchers also have a role to play in the safety of drivers. By being cautious and smart about how they travel, they can help limit unsafe interactions with other drivers. This could mean taking the extra time to properly detach and haul combine headers and other attachments rather than leaving them on the equipment. Pilot cars can also be helpful when moving equipment down county roads and highways. While these simple steps can help to improve the safety of travel, being seen is the most important thing a farmer needs to do. Having working lights and reflectors will greatly improve visibility during the night and low light hours, allowing for other drivers to see and prepare to meet or pass a piece of equipment.

Coming across slow-moving farm equipment can be a stressful and sometimes frustrating experience, but it takes only a few easy steps to make it easier for everyone. Being patient, respectful and knowledgeable will make traveling during harvest time safer for everyone.