Cooler weather and shorter days signal that fall has arrived and soon farmers will be making their way out to their field to begin harvest.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation are encouraging farmers and motorists to work together to keep Wisconsin roadways safe this fall.
“Everyone wants to return home safely at the end of the day,” said Wisconsin Farm Bureau spokeswoman Sarah Hetke. “Safety on the roadways is a joint responsibility between farmers and motorists.”
According to the Wisconsin DOT, over the last decade (2009-2018) 32 people have been killed and 874 injured in crashes involving agricultural equipment.
Three scenarios drivers and farmers should know how to handle are passing farm equipment, left-hand turns and braking distance needed at controlled intersections.
Passing: Since 2014, it has been illegal to pass farm equipment, in a no-passing zone regardless of the speed the equipment is traveling. Motorists should wait until they enter a passing zone and have deemed it is safe to pass. Farmers should not pull over in a no-passing zone to let vehicles pass, unless the road shoulder condition and width can allow for the farm machinery to completely move onto the shoulder. Additionally, farmers should not wave a driver to pass them as this can create additional confusion. Farmers with wide equipment are legally obligated to yield the opposite lane to any oncoming motorists as to not impede the normal flow of traffic.
Left-hand turn: Farmers attempting to make a left-hand turn can create a dangerous situation if motorists are not attentive. Farm equipment, especially tractors, will likely have two flashing amber or yellow lights on the cab or tire fenders of the tractor when in operation on the roadway. When a farmer signals to turn, the light will continue to flash in the direction the farmer is turning. The other light will go solid.
For motorists, this is a very important distinction to recognize. For farm tractors or farm machinery without turn signals, hand signals should be used to indicate the operator’s intention to turn.
A controlled intersection: Even if a motorist legally passes large farm equipment within a very short distance of a controlled intersection (stop sign or stop lights), this action can dramatically impact the reaction time and braking distance for the farm equipment operator. Farm equipment is much heavier than a normal passenger vehicle which requires greater braking distance.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recommends drivers should slow down immediately whenever they see a slow-moving vehicle emblem (orange and red triangle) on the rear of a tractor or other piece of equipment. This emblem indicates that the farm machine usually travels slower than 25 mph. Stay alert, focused and patient when passing a slow-moving agricultural vehicle in an area where passing is legal.
Farmers are asked to comply with the proper lighting and marking requirements to draw attention to the size, shape and speed of agricultural vehicles and to alert drivers that caution is required. There are specific requirements for different types of equipment. This information can be found here.
Farmers should also know their local weight restrictions. Generally, agricultural weight limits are 23,000 pounds per axle or 92,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, dependent on number of axles and axle spacing, and subject to seasonal or special postings. Farmers can find more information about weight limits from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and Wisconsin Department of Transportation.