Spring in Maryland means it is time for farmers to get growing. Now, more than ever, consumers are looking for a strong local food supply. Maryland farmers are continuing to work to ensure that it’s available.
Over the next several weeks, farmland will be prepared and planted with crops that you will eventually see when shopping farm markets and grocery stores this summer, along with the grains that will go into animal feed, brews, biofuel, and more. Maryland’s planting season typically runs from April to May, beginning earlier on the warmer Eastern Shore and starting later in the cooler western mountain fields.
During planting season, farmers are on the move. Tractors pulling planters and trucks transporting seeds and farm supplies will be on the road as they travel from field to field at all hours of the day to get the job done. Farm trucks and wagons are also currently transporting fresh produce to winter farm markets and grocers. Sharing the road with motorists unfamiliar with large, slow-moving farm equipment can make for a dangerous situation for all parties.
Findings in the Maryland Rural Road Safety Study show that the most common farm vehicle crashes are rear-end accidents, and drivers of vehicles other than the farm equipment are more likely to be injured.
“A top concern cited by our farmers is that motorists are attempting to pass when there is not enough time or space on the roadway,” commented Brian Johnson, Chair of the Maryland Soybean Board that funded the study. “This is causing collisions or farmers are being pushed off the road to prevent accidents.”
How can you stay safe on Maryland’s rural roads? Keep these tips in mind to remain accident-free.
7 Motorist Tips to Safely Share the Road
- SMV = Brake immediately. Watch for vehicles marked with an orange triangle slow moving vehicle (SMV) sign. The sign is not simply a reflector — it is a warning to slow down. If you’re driving 55 mph and come upon a tractor that is moving 25 mph, it only takes 8 seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between you and the tractor.
- Don’t assume intent. Watch for signaling lights or hand signals to understand what the farmer is trying to do. Don’t confuse a hand signal for a turn with a wave from the farmer letting you know it is safe to pass.
- Big equipment takes big space. Be mindful that large machines may take up more than one lane. Wide turns are required for most farm equipment, so you might see a tractor move into the left lane when making a right turn onto a narrow road or driveway. Equipment may seem tall, but do not attempt to pass under.
- SMVs can’t always pull over safely. Driving with one set of wheels on the pavement and one set on loose-surfaced shoulders substantially increases the risk of overturning or other accidents. Spring rains can make shoulders soft and easily pull any vehicle into the ditch. Farmers will pull over when they can safely do so.
- Pass with caution. Never pass on a hill, around curves or in any situation that would block your view of oncoming vehicles. Look for fields and roads on the left where a farm vehicle may turn before passing. A driver may appear to be pulling to the right to let you pass when instead is making a wide left-hand turn. Remember, farm equipment cannot stop or slow down as quickly as a car, so give that equipment adequate space before merging back into your lane.
- Be patient and courteous. Usually farmers are traveling short distances. If you are driving behind a tractor and slow down to 25 mph for two miles, when the speed limit is 50 mph, this will only delay your drive by about 2 minutes. That is less time than it takes to wait for a favorite song to finish playing on the radio.
- Put your phone down. As for any time behind the wheel, don’t use a phone while driving. Keep your eyes on the road. Distracted driving is the number one cause of all accidents.
During this busy time for farmers, be aware, be patient and put safety first. Follow these motorist’s tips and we’ll all be home safely for dinner.