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Farm Machinery, Cars Share Road
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- With harvest just around the corner, highway drivers often find unexpected farm equipment just over the top of the hill.
Herb Willcutt, Mississippi State University extension farm safety specialist, said drivers need to be cautious on rural highways near planting and harvest times. Several accidents each year in Mississippi involve highway traffic and farm equipment.
"Farm machinery will be on the roads some during these times of high agricultural activity, and farm equipment moves slower than highway traffic and is often wider," Willcutt said.
The most common accidents between farm equipment and highway traffic happen when vehicles overtake the slower equipment, or the machinery makes a left turn.
"If a car tops a hill and there's a tractor just ahead going one-third their speed, they may not be able to stop in time," Willcutt said. "Also, because of the size of much farm machinery, operators may not be able to see traffic behind them clearly enough to determine when it is safe to make a left turn."
Another problem arises when the wider-than-normal machinery must swing out into the oncoming lane to avoid bridge abutments, signs, mailboxes, parked cars or other obstacles.
To prevent accidents, Willcutt recommended that farm equipment have flashing lights on whenever on roadways. These are much more visible than the orange, slow-moving vehicle emblems.
Additionally, farm machinery should use escorts whenever possible on the roads.
"Ideally, there should be two escorts, one in front and one in back," Willcutt said. "In practicality, there usually is just one, but this one should follow behind and stay in radio contact with the machine operator."
The escort vehicle should stay far enough back so the equipment won't be overtaken too rapidly. With radio contact, the drivers can safely navigate obstacles in the road.
"All drivers need to realize that farm equipment will have to travel on the roads sometimes, and they need to be alert and cautious, especially at this time of the year," Willcutt said.