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Heavy Farm Machinery on Indiana Roadways Pose a Challenge to Drivers

Jason Reese

Synopsis

  • Spring is here and as we see more heavy machinery on the road, there is no doubt that farming is local business for Indiana.
  • With over 85,000 local farmers to share Hoosier blacktop with, drivers need to be on the lookout for these big tractors, trucks, and machines and remember that there is plenty of room for everybody to travel to their destination safely.
  • Driving on the side of safety during left-turn situations is the smart choice for both types of drivers as this maneuver can quickly turn fatal for motorists.
  • Motor vehicle operators and farm equipment drivers need to pay extra attention, remain patient, and focus on driving without distractions.

Farm Trucks and Equipment Are Expected on Hoosier Roads This Spring

Farmers will agree that drivers should be reminded that nearly all of their machinery and equipment is big, slow and not easily maneuverable on common roads. This is an especially important reminder as Hoosier farmers are busiest in the spring months. The weather warms up and they are traveling with heavy equipment to crop beds and fields to prepare the soil for planting seeds of corn, carrots, soybean, cabbage, lettuce, and potatoes.

It’s also important to remember that tractor and farm equipment operators are not required to drive on the road shoulders. In fact, some Indiana farmers can only access their fields from traveling on roads with motor vehicles and may need to make wide turns as they arrive to the entrance to them. The mix of a slow traveling farm tractor hauling equipment and a fast motor vehicle can create a very short window of time before meeting if not paying attention. Being able to stop safely without a crash is nearly impossible.

In addition, farmers (and farm equipment operators) may not be able to see very well around large and awkward equipment. Other drivers shouldn’t assume that a farmer knows they are approaching or that they are even on the road with them. Even with large extended mirrors to review traffic though, when a driver is following too closely, it is likely their vehicle won’t be visible to the farm equipment operator. Keeping a safe distance back is smart.

Left Turns Cause Most Roadway Accidents with Farm Equipment

Farm equipment may swing out differently than expected and cause a tragic accident for motorists who pass at the wrong time. In fact, a majority of crashes between farm equipment and motor vehicles occur when the tractor or equipment operator slows down to make a left turn and the motorist moves to pass at the same time. Drivers should make sure that if they are going to pass farm machinery, the driver is not about to turn left.

Drivers should be on the lookout for driveways into farms or fields and be aware of other drivers who may be trying to pass as well. Most farmers will pull off to allow traffic to pass, but they have been trained to do this only when it is safe. For example, if wet weather has made the shoulders of the roads too soft for the weight of their loads, a farmer may be forced to stay on the roadway. And remember, it is illegal to pass farm equipment (or other vehicles) in no passing zones. From time to time, drivers may travel near farm machinery that does not have brake lights or turn signals. This can often test the patience of most drivers, but it is important to stay alert and pass only when it is safe.

6 Safety Rules for Farm Equipment on Roads

Indiana Prairie Farmer is a local authority for farmers and producers across Indiana. The group published an article in 2017 titled, 6 Safety Rules for Farm Equipment on Roads. Here is the summary of those rules to help farmers and farm equipment operators travel share the road as safely possible.

  1. A slow-moving vehicle sign is a must. It doesn’t matter how many flashing lights the tractor or machinery have on it. The law says farm vehicles must have a Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign mounted 3 to 5 feet above the pavement and in the center of the load, or as close as possible. Red flags are not substitutes for SMV signs. Signs need to be visible to all drivers and not damaged.
  2. Operators can’t tow more implements than what’s allowed, and that general rule is to only tow two implements. Towing more that that is potentially risky situation that should be avoided.
  3. The three-car rule is law, not just a courtesy. Indiana code states that if farmers are driving a slow-moving vehicle and three or more vehicles get backed up behind them, it’s the farmer’s duty to pull over at the next possible safe place and allow them to pass. BUT, farmers should only let motorists pass when it is completely safe to do so.
  4. The law does not require a license to drive a tractor, and there is no minimum age requirement to do so. Even a child does not need a license to drive a tractor on an Indiana road. However, common sense should be at the forefront and they should be trained on how to drive and operate a farm vehicle safely. This includes teaching them how to use signals, how to judge speeds of oncoming vehicles, and the importance of not being a distracted driver.
  5. Make sure any towing equipment is visible. Indiana state law says that where flashers are required on tractors, flashing lights on the tractor or on a pickup are sufficient, but there is no need for flashing lights at the rear of the towed piece. Farm equipment operators should take responsibility to make sure all flashing lights are visible. If the hauled equipment or pieces blocks the flashing lights, then flashing lights could be required on that equipment.
  6. Know the rules about reflectors and flashing lights. Equipment built after July 1, 2006, must have reflectors and lights, according to requirements outlined in Indiana code. Reflective tape is not required, but it is recommended.

It’s best practice for all motorists who are operating a car or a farm vehicle to do so wisely and follow the rules of the road. Driving on the side of safety is the smart choice for both types of drivers.

Representing Accident Victims, Farmers and Their Families

If you have been injured, or a loved one killed, in a collision between a motor vehicle and farm equipment, call the attorneys at Wagner Reese to schedule a free consultation. Stephen Wagner and Jason Reese can work with you and help determine whether you might be eligible for injury compensation, medical benefits, permanent or temporary disability, or death benefits.

If you would like legal advice on an accident, give us a call today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation or speak with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information.

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