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Sharing the road

Be on the lookout for slow moving vehicles this harvest season

Many slow-moving farm vehicles will be on the road as harvest time arrives. Law enforcement officials encourage motorists to drive defensively and to keep eye an out for what's coming up ahead down the road.

Abiding by the Iowa State Patrol’s motto of slow down, put your phone down and buckle up is more important than ever as motorists are beginning to share the road with farm equipment this fall.

“We know harvest season is upon us and the advice we would give to both farmers and the motoring public is to make sure you are visible,” said Paul Gardner, Iowa State Patrol Trooper. “Make sure you are driving defensively. Look down the road to see what is ahead of you.”

Farm equipment operators, Gardner advised need to be sure to be equipped with a slow moving vehicle sign if they are traveling 35 mph or less. While traveling at night they need to ensure they have working lights so motorists can see them as they approach the large equipment as well as meeting them on the road.

Remembering to yield and stop at stop signs is also important.

“When you are coming up to an intersection, make sure you are yielding to traffic,” he said. “Stop signs still apply to those who are operating tractors and other farm implements.”

Be sure to share the road.

“Share the road and watch for other vehicles,” said Gardner. “If a large equipment operator can safely do it, they should get over as much as they can. Give people enough room to pass. We encourage you to don’t try to get traffic backed up behind you as much as possible and try to choose the routes that don’t have as much traffic.”

As for the motoring public, Gardner said they also need to be aware of their surroundings while traveling on rural roadways.

“Just know there are going to be tractors and combines out working the fields this fall,” he said.

When approaching a slow moving vehicle, Gardner said it is imperative to give them plenty of room.

“Don’t crowd them. Don’t follow them too closely because if they have to stop all of a sudden, or if you are out passing them and they make a turn in front of you, that is going to be bad for both vehicles involved,” he said. “Obviously, the bigger the tractor, the worse it is going to be for the car.”

No passing zones, Gardner said still apply when passing farm implements.

“Just because they are going slower, it is still illegal to pass on the double yellow lines,” he said. “You may be coming up on a hill and think you can get around them, but you need to be watching out for oncoming traffic.”

By keeping your phone down and your eyes looking ahead that should help noticing a slow moving vehicle in plenty of time to slow down.

“Don’t be distracted. Make sure you are aware of what is ahead of you. You may not see them right away and you may come across a tractor pretty quickly and it may be too late to slow down or too late to stop,” he said.

Studies have shown speeding in the state of Iowa has increased over this last year.

“Speeds that are 21 miles per hour and greater than the speed limit have increased 50 percent this year compared to last year,” he said.

Speeding can make stopping for a slow moving vehicle even more difficult.

“Sometimes on the back roads, you get somebody who has an open road and they don’t see anybody, they put the hammer down and they may not see a slow moving vehicle pull out and it will be too late to slow down,” he said.

Gardner says to just be patient.

“They are going to move slow because obviously they are meant to go slow,” he said. “As soon as it is safe to pass and you can get around them please do so. Be careful. The farmer may be making a turn into a farm drive or another roadway and they may turn right in front of you.”

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