Fall is upon us and along with corn mazes, pumpkin spice, and cooler temperatures comes the harvest season.  This is the time of year that drivers are most apt to encounter farm equipment - tractors, implements, trailers - on the roadway.  And, the majority of the time they are slow-moving - or at least slower moving - than normal traffic flow.

Because farm tractors and equipment aren't usually on roadways, this time of the year brings a spike in car crashes.  The combination of slower speeds and the unexpected nature of encountering the farm implements on the highway contribute to the statistics.

That's why the Minnesota Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to be extra-cautious this time of year. Drivers should be aware of large farm equipment moving from field to field, transporting crops to market, grain elevators, and processing plans.

According to information shared by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, there were 374 crashes involving farm equipment in Minnesota between the years 2019 and 2021.  Among those crashes, there were eight deaths and 133 injuries.

Unfortunately, many of those crashes happen due to inattentive driving.  MNDOT State Traffic Engineer Brian Sorenson explains:

"Harvest season is underway across Minnesota and farmers will again need the highways to access their fields.  Motorists need to put down distractions and watch for those slow-moving farm vehicles, especially on rural, two-lane roads."

There are always safety measures that can help to alleviate the potential for crashes - for both automobile drivers and farm tractor operators.  The Minnesota Department of Transportation offers the following suggestions:

For Motorists:

  • Slow down
  • Use caution when approaching farm equipment
  • Watch for falling debris from trailers, tractors, and implements
  • Drive with headlights on so that tractor drivers can see you
  • Wait for a safe place to pass

Farm equipment operators:

  • Use lights and flashers to make your equipment more visible
  • Use "slow-moving vehicle" emblems for equipment moving less than 30 mph
  • Consider using a "follow vehicle" when moving equipment - especially at night

The general message from MNDOT for both drivers and equipment operators is to stay alert and slow down.  Farm equipment is large and heavy. That makes it difficult for operators to accelerate, slow down, or stop.  The equipment also makes wide turns and sometimes crosses over the center line during operation. There are also often large "blind spots" - where the operator has difficulty seeing the surroundings.

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