Virginia farmers are poised to reap plentiful harvests this fall, and that means increased farm equipment on roadways.
According to a mid-August report released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, harvests for Virginia-grown corn, cotton, peanuts and soybeans are expected to increase from last year’s totals. With the expectation of improved crop yields, Virginia motorists should prepare themselves for a busy harvest season sharing the state’s roadways with farmers moving equipment.
Through November, various activities will require growers to drive their machinery on public roadways. Because farming equipment often is slow-moving and can be wider than a single travel lane, farmers and other drivers are being encouraged to use caution.
“The fall months are always a busy time on Virginia’s rural roadways,” remarked Dana Fisher, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Farm Safety Advisory Committee.
“Now that the dog days of summer are over, you’re going to see more commuters and school transportation using those back roads and contributing to an increase in traffic,” he added. “Our farmers need to be able to utilize these roads safely, which means everyone—including farmers—has to take the necessary precautions to ensure everybody reaches their destination safely.”
Virginia law requires vehicles that travel slower than 25 mph to be equipped with rear-mounted, triangular slow-moving vehicle signs when driven on public roads. The reflective orange signs act as a warning to approaching drivers to slow down, as passenger vehicles travel at speeds much faster than large farming equipment.
Farmers try to minimize their impact on traffic by moving their equipment when local roads won’t be busy, including midnight hours. Thus, state laws require farming equipment to have lights, which are required to be turned on from sunset to sunrise when traveling.
Growers also are encouraged to affix flashing amber lights and reflectors on farm vehicles to improve visibility.
Motorists are reminded to recognize these warning signs, and to give farmers time to move their equipment down the road or to pull off when it’s safe. Drivers also should pay attention when approaching blind corners and hills, pass only in designated zones and avoid risky behaviors when driving alongside farm machinery.
“It takes a lot of effort and coordination for farmers to move their equipment from the farm and onto public roads,” Fisher said.
“(Farmers) know the risks involved, and they want to get off the road as quickly as they can,” he added. “Give them the benefit of the doubt, be patient, and don’t drive in ways that could put you or the operator of that farming equipment in danger. That way everyone reaches their destination safely.”