It’s happened countless times: you’re cruising down the back roads with your windows open, the horizon stretching out before you, when suddenly a dot appears far ahead. As you get closer, you see a large orange flasher on the back, and the unmistakable green hulk of a farm vehicle—and you drop your speed to inch along behind it.
Farm equipment such as tractors, combines, and flatbed trailers are allowed to travel on roads in order to get to and from the fields; however, these vehicles are not designed to travel at high speeds. A large, lumbering vehicle traveling at 20 mph on a 55 mph highway can be dangerous not only to the farmer, but to the people in smaller passenger cars.
How to Pass Slow-Moving Farm Equipment Safely
While it may be irritating to follow a vehicle that is only traveling at a handful of miles per hour, it is necessary to keep a cool head before attempting to overtake it. The next time you are directly behind a slow moving vehicle, you can pass safely by taking the following steps:
- Scan ahead. You should only pass on flat, unobscured roads. Sharp curves and hills can block the view ahead, and you will need plenty of room to pass safely. Do not attempt to pass if you are approaching an intersection, near a railroad crossing, under a bridge, near a tunnel, or are in a “No Passing Zone.”
- Signal your intent. Once you have found a clear opening in front of the farm vehicle and in the oncoming lane of traffic, activate your turn signal to alert the farmer you are passing. If he does not acknowledge you (or his vehicle makes a lot of noise), honk your horn lightly to alert him.
- Look behind you. If there is a long line of vehicles piling up behind you, there’s a good chance one or more of them will be frustrated at the wait—increasing the odds of someone pulling out of line to pass you both. Make sure the cars behind you are only in your lane.
- Watch the width! Farm equipment is often wider than passenger vehicles (and may be wider than the traffic lane), but farmers cannot always move onto the shoulder to allow you room to pass. As you pass, don’t assume that the farmer will automatically move over; the shoulder may be wet, muddy, or too steep for the equipment to travel on safely.
- Merge. Keep a safe distance as you overtake the farmer, and make sure you can completely see his vehicle in your rearview mirror before returning to your traffic lane.
Remember: the farmer has a much longer journey ahead of him than you do, and getting angry at the delay in your trip won’t get you there any faster. If you or someone you know frequently shares the roads with farm vehicles, please consider sharing this article on Facebook to make sure they are aware of proper passing procedures. You never know whose live you may save with a single click!