by Joan Nichols, Connecticut Farm Bureau Association
A Connecticut farmer was traveling home on his tractor at dusk one evening after a long day of working in his fields. The next thing he knew he was being thrown from his tractor seat. Disoriented, he found himself on the pavement, underneath his severely damaged tractor. His initial reaction was that there had been some mechanical failure to the rear axle of the tractor that had caused his near fatal accident. What had actually caused the accident was a passing passenger car that had misjudged the speed and width of the tractor, hit the rear tire of the tractor, and then nearly collided with an oncoming vehicle approaching in the opposite lane. Miraculously no one was killed in the accident. The farmer incurred severe bruising and the loss of his farm machinery. When emergency help arrived the flashing lights on the rear of the mangled farm tractor were still flashing.
Spring is one of the busiest times of year for area farmers. Fragmentation and loss of available farmland find area farmers having to travel on public roads to fields owned and leased throughout their communities. What can area farmers, and the general public, do to assure farm vehicle safety on our pubic roads?
The average farm tractor has a maximum speed of 18 mph. Tractors are at least eight feet in width, and often wider, with the rear tires exceeding the width of the fenders. In the spring, tractors can be seen pulling plows that are routinely wider than the tractor itself. Throughout the summer and fall, tractors can be seen pulling hay wagons and other farm implements.
For your safety, be on the look out for tractors, planters, and other farm equipment this spring. By law, all farm tractors and self propelled unit for farm equipment must be equipped with two single-beam or multiple-beam head lamps and at least two red lamps. All farm equipment that travels on the road should also be equipped with flashing lights and a Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) orange reflective triangle.
Passenger vehicles should use extreme caution when approaching one of these vehicles from the rear, as a safe traveling distance approaches quickly and often unexpectedly. Slow down well in advance of approaching one of these vehicles and be patient. The farmer is generally not far from his destination and will be exiting the highway shortly or will be looking for a safe place to pull over so vehicles may pass. Look for hand signals from the farmer that indicates he will be turning or exiting off the highway. Tractors pulling wide plows and farm implements require a wider turning radius, so do not attempt to pass the tractor and implements, until the farmer has negotiated the turn safely. When passing a slow moving vehicle, use extreme caution to be sure there are no vehicles approaching in the opposite lane and that you have provided enough passing room between yourself and the tractor.
Let’s keep our Connecticut farmers and yourself safe throughout this year’s growing season. Be on the look out for slow moving farm equipment and play it safe when looking to pass.