Heavy Farm Machinery on Indiana Roadways Pose a Challenge to Drivers

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.