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Tips for staying safe during planting time

Kelli Basset
University of Illinois Extension

Every spring we hear about a neighbor who had a "close
call" with another vehicle while traveling to the field with an implement.
As fields and subdivisions increasingly meet one another, rural roadways are
being shared by more drivers. Farmers, in turn, are traveling longer distances
to fields, often times on busy routes.

As we prepare for the rush of spring planting, take the time
to review the proper safety requirements before pulling onto the road.

Roadway safety is especially important for farmers who share
the road with a general public increasingly unaware of farm machinery
maneuverability/speed limitations. It is increasingly necessary to be seen and
be recognized by motorists. Because tractors, and the implements being pulled
behind them, usually travel less than 25 MPH, making sure that they are clearly
marked will help motorists see them in time to slow down.

According to Bob Aherin, agricultural safety and health
specialist with the University of Illinois Extension, there are over 275 motor
vehicle collisions with farm equipment each year in Illinois.

It is important to make sure that lights are in working
order and that all reflectors, including the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem, are in
place before traveling. Sometimes it may be necessary to wipe the dust off of
these safety devices following field work.

Enhancing the visibility of your equipment may help to avoid
an accident. If traveling at night, equipment must have two red taillights
mounted to the right and left extremities, two white headlights that are
visible for 1,000 feet to the front and at least one flashing amber light. An
amber flashing light mounted on the far right and left of tractors/ implements,
visible to the front and rear, can also increase visibility.

Making a left-hand turn across the opposite lane of traffic
can be a dangerous task when pulling an implement. Motorists following behind
may not understand that a left turn requires a move to the right in preparation
for the turn. Motorists may assume this action is intended to let them pass.
Use turn signals accordingly and check mirrors that allow you to see behind the
tractor or implement before executing the turn. Pulling onto the shoulder and
waiting until the roadway is clear of traffic can aid in making this turn as

As farm equipment grows in size, so does the difficulty of
transporting it between fields. If a piece of equipment being pulled extends
into the opposite lane of traffic and the driver cannot reasonably move onto
the shoulder, escort vehicles should be used. These vehicles, either a car or
truck, should remain at least 500 feet in front and behind the tractor and
implement and should operate flashing lights to warn oncoming vehicles.

Though it is with great caution that tractors and implements
are typically moved throughout the countryside during the busy season, it is
always best to error on the side of safety when traveling.

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