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Editorial: Be on lookout on roads for farm equipment

Here’s a heads-up for drivers: Watch out for farmers who are doing their jobs.

Minnesota Department of Transportation leaders are reminding motorists traveling on highways this fall to be aware of large farm equipment transporting crops to markets, grain elevators and processing plants.

“Harvest season is in full swing and farmers in every corner of the state are out using the highways,” said Sue Groth, state traffic engineer. “Motorists need to be prepared to encounter slow-moving farm vehicles, especially on rural, two-lane roads.”

Farm equipment is large and heavy, making it hard for operators to accelerate, slow down and stop. The machines also make wide turns and sometimes cross over the center line. In addition, farm vehicles can create large blind spots, making it difficult for operators to see approaching vehicles.

All of these factors can cause serious crashes. The statistics prove it: During 2010-12, 377 traffic crashes took place on Minnesota roads involving at least one farm vehicle, resulting in 13 fatalities and 211 injuries. Of the 13 fatalities, six were farm vehicle riders; of the 211 injuries, 53 were farm vehicle riders.

What causes the accidents?

“The biggest factors contributing to farm equipment/vehicle crashes are inattention, speeding and unsafe passing,” Groth said. “When approaching farm equipment, motorists should always slow down and use extreme caution.”

Drivers should follow this advice from MnDOT:

n Watch for debris dropped by trucks hauling sugar beets, potatoes and other crops. It is safer to brake or drive through debris than to veer into oncoming cars or off the road.

n Wait for a safe place to pass.

n Wear seat belts.

n Drive with headlights on at all times.

Farmers can also do their part to reduce the chance of a crash by following these tips:

n Use lights and flashers to make equipment more visible.

n Use slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 miles per hour.

n Consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, especially at night.


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