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Drivers asked to watch for farm equipment as planting rolls on

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It only takes 5 seconds for a car moving 55 mph to close a gap the length of a football field when it comes upon a tractor moving 15 mph.

The Alabama Farmers Federation is urging drivers to practice extra caution as farmers and large machinery hit the roadways during spring planting and summer growing seasons.

“This time of year, farmers are on the roads working hard to produce food and other crops we all rely on,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “We ask that drivers assist us by being careful and alert so everyone arrives home safely to their parents, spouses and children. Let’s share the road safely this season.”

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency has reported multiple tractor-related fatalities this year. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports 15,000 accidents annually involving farm vehicles. Alarmingly, 55% of highway deaths occur on rural roads.

Parnell said it’s important for drivers to always stay alert, especially on rural roads. For reference, it only takes 5 seconds for a car moving 55 mph to close a gap the length of a football field when it comes upon a tractor moving 15 mph.

Parnell said farmers try to avoid moving equipment during high-traffic times and pull over, when safe, to allow vehicles to pass.

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Credit: ALFA

“We understand that everyone is busy, and drivers are hurrying to make it to work and other commitments,” he said. “Farmers just ask for a little patience in these situations.”

Equipment and slow-moving vehicles are denoted by a triangular orange sign, indicating speeds of 25 mph or less.

Top Tips For Road Safety:

  • Slow down when you see a piece of agricultural equipment. Most farm equipment is designed to travel at speeds of only 15 to 25 mph.
  • Watch for slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs. SMVs are required for vehicles traveling less than 25 mph.
  • Watch for electronic or hand turn signals. Just because a tractor veers right does not mean the operator is pulling over to allow someone to pass. The size of farm equipment often dictates the necessity of wide turns.
  • Pass farm equipment cautiously. Even when passing safely and legally, machinery may sway or become unstable. Do not expect operators to drive their equipment onto the shoulder of the road.
  • Driving with one set of tires on loose-surfaced shoulders substantially increases the risk of turning over.
  • Watch for flashing amber lights. This type of light often marks the far right and left of farm equipment. Also, watch for reflective tape marking extremities and sides of equipment.
  • Remember agricultural vehicle operators have a right to drive their equipment on the road.
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