Extension warns: Harvest time means taking extra safety precautions

It’s harvest season, and that means local farmers are hard at work. The Franklin County Extension, Franklin County Farm-City Committee, Women’s Leadership Committee and Franklin County Farmers Federation are joining forces to encourage extra safety as tractors join the roadways in greater numbers.

Slow-moving vehicles should be identified by an orange triangle on the back of the machine, meaning it’s designed to travel at 25 miles per hour or less. According to the Farmers Federation, it only takes five seconds for a car moving 55 miles per hour to close a gap the length of a football field with a tractor moving 15 miles per hour.

Safety tips for drivers include:

  • Slow down when you see a piece of agricultural equipment. Most farm equipment is designed to travel at speeds of only 15-25 miles per hour.
  • Watch for slow moving vehicle signs. SMVs are required for vehicles traveling less than 25 miles per hour.
  • 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 could sway or become unstable. Do not expect operators to drive their equipment onto the shoulder of the road.
  • Driving on the shoulder, 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.

SLOW-MOVING VEHICLE SIGNAGE

SMV signs have been in use since 1971; yet, many motorists do not know that the reflective triangle means the vehicle they are approaching is not capable of going any faster than 25 miles per hour. Many times, the vehicle will be moving even slower than that.

Motorists will find SMV signs on farm tractors and other farm equipment, such as combines, harvesters, wagons and more and on road equipment.

Alabama law requires that the triangular red-and-orange SMV sign be affixed to all farm tractors, self-propelled farm equipment or any other vehicle designed for speeds of 25 miles per hour or less whenever it travels any highway in the state. The sign is restricted to such vehicles; its use on any other type of vehicle or stationary object is prohibited.

If the slow-moving vehicle is towing an implement, trailer or wagon, the SMV sign must be displayed from the rear of the towed unit, not less than three feet nor more than five feet above the ground, measuring to the lowest portion of the device and as near the center of the vehicle, implement or mobile equipment as practicable.

Alabama law recognizes the right of farm tractors and other farm machinery to use public roadways and does not require slow-moving vehicles to pull to the shoulder.

Motorists are advised:

  • Begin reducing speed immediately after seeing an SMV emblem.
  • The likelihood of meeting farm machinery on the public highway increases during planting, haying and harvest seasons, from late February through late October.
  • Be patient. Farm machinery can’t travel at high speeds. While most farmers will move to the side of the road and let traffic pass when they are able to safely do so, Alabama law does not require it.
  • Pass with caution, slowly and deliberately, watching for other traffic and sudden turns.

Tractor operators are advised:

  • Display an SMV emblem on all slow-moving equipment used on public roadways.
  • Be courteous. If traffic behind you is getting heavy, pull to the shoulder and stop if there is plenty of room for all your equipment. Watch out for mailboxes, signposts, ditches or other hazards that might force you into the passing lane.
  • Keep close watch in front and behind you. Motorists may approach from the rear at speeds two to three times faster than the tractor.
  • Never try to “help” by motioning other vehicles to pass, as a vehicle might enter from a side road.

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