Harvest season requires room, respect on rural roads
Frustrating. Annoying. Aggravating. These words describe the feelings of farmers trying to harvest their crops this fall. It also describes the feelings of drivers dealing with farm machinery on our roadways.
A rainy autumn means farmers have already lost a month of the normal harvest season. Drivers are going to notice a lot of farm machinery and trucks on rural roads in the days and weeks ahead. Farmers will be putting in long hours and certainly donít try to make you late for wherever youíre headed.
We will all be safer if we remember a few things.
Farmers park semis at the edges of fields to fill them. Wet weather has made for muddy fields and soft road shoulders. Therefore, I think we are going to see more of these big trucks parked on the road. As you are traveling the back roads, be extra cautious for parked trucks and slow down when cresting a hill. Large, modern farm equipment can take up more than one lane of traffic. Tractor operators are not required to drive on the shoulder. Please pass them safely.
Farm machinery signal lighting works a little bit different than normal vehicles. Most machinery has turn signals and red warning lights. However, most do not have brake lights. When you approach most tractors, you will see two amber-colored lights flashing. These are also the turn signals. However, when an operator goes to turn, the side opposite of the direction he is turning will come on solid, while the other side flashes. Do not expect the operator to pull off to the side of the road before the operator turns.
Passing a tractor and implement in a no-passing zone is both illegal and dangerous. Even if the operator is all the way over to the side of the road and he motions you to pass, it is still illegal.
There are still many farm implements and wagons that do not have turn signals, so motorists should be cautious when the equipment ahead of them slows down. They should always look for a driveway on the left-hand side of the road before attempting to pass, to make sure the tractor will not attempt a left-hand turn while being passed on the left. This is one of the biggest causes of accidents as drivers often assume that the implement is slowing down to let them pass when they are actually slowing down to make a left-hand turn.
Farmers and motorists both have a responsibility to operate their vehicles safely. If we all just give each other some room and respect, we can make this a safe harvest season.
Jeffrey Ditzenberger is president of the Green County Farm Bureau; phone (608) 558-9905.