It is harvest time in North Florida and area farmers are bringing out their harvesting equipment. This is typically the largest equipment on the farm. Larger equipment on the roads can lead to higher risk of equipment to vehicle crashes. Large machinery is designed for the field, and has limited road mobility. Riding behind or toward a piece of equipment it is easy to think that a machine can just “move over,” but tractor rollover is the leading cause of tractor related fatalities and pulling equipment on and off roadways is a large risk factor for rollover.
Here are a few thoughts that will keep you safe when sharing the road with tractors during this time of year:
- Be patient. Farmers want to arrive to the field as quickly and as safely as possible.
- When you first see a tractor or equipment on the road your first instinct should be to slow down. For the most part, tractors and equipment top road speed is about 20 miles per hour.
- Much of our harvesting equipment is 22 feet wide. County roads are 10 feet per lane, and state roads are 12 feet per lane. Do not attempt to pass unless the operator has pulled over to give clear access.
- Farms often caravan equipment in groups, if you attempt to pass there may be other farm equipment in line or a flag truck in the lead.
- Do not assume oncoming equipment will pull over if it is using part of or your entire lane. It is most likely the operator will not pull over onto the shoulder or into a ditch. Pulling onto unpaved surfaces without coming to a complete stop is extremely risky for the equipment/operator due to instability and purpose built engineering. If there is not enough road for both vehicles to pass, pull over.
- If you pass equipment, watch for extra wide attachments or accessories. These are often wider than the tires or the body of the machine.
- Stay alert. Do not text, facebook, or tweet and drive. Research shows that when texting, the eyes are off the road for 4.6 seconds of every 6 second period. Your vehicle will close a 300 foot gap in five seconds when traveling at 55 MPH.
The time spent behind a slow moving tractor for a distance of two miles is the equivalent of sitting at two stoplights. Take it easy and enjoy the rural lifestyle, and think about your city friends at light after light in town.