RICHMOND—Planting season is underway in Virginia, and drivers are being encouraged to use caution when encountering farm equipment on the state’s roadways.
“From now until the end of June, farmers will be transporting equipment like tractors and sprayers pretty regularly as they work to get their crops planted,” said Dana Fisher, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Farm Safety Advisory Committee. “These vehicles mostly travel on rural roads where space is limited, so it’s important for motorists to be careful when sharing the road with these larger pieces of equipment.”
Fisher cautioned drivers about hills and blind curves on rural roads that could obscure approaching farm equipment, which typically is slow-moving.
Virginia law requires operators of vehicles that travel slower than 25 mph to rear-mount triangular slow-moving vehicle signs when the equipment is being driven on public roadways. Many farmers also use flashing amber lights and reflective decals to alert approaching drivers.
“Once you see that SMV sign, just know that you’re going to catch up to that vehicle in a hurry,” Fisher said. “Understanding that closing speed is key. If you’re coming up on a tractor that’s going 10 mph and you’re going 50 mph, you’re going to close that distance fast.”
Amelia County famer Jeremy Moyer said motorists should remember that even though farming equipment can be sluggish, their operators have the same road rights as other drivers.
“Just because a car can go faster than a tractor doesn’t mean you’re allowed to cross double solid lines to pass them,” Moyer said.
Motorists should make sure they’re visible at all times, and avoid risky passing maneuvers. Dangerous or illegal passing can cause collisions if an operator of the equipment makes a wide turn or isn’t given enough time to break for slowing traffic ahead.
Moyer noted farmers will yield to faster traffic when possible, and most will try to move their equipment during times that minimize interactions with commuter traffic.
“Our farmers are doing the best they can to stay out of the way, but they’ve also got to get their crops growing so everyone can eat,” Fisher said. “That may mean there’s going to be a little bit more slow-moving traffic on the roads this spring. But in the end, waiting behind a tractor for that extra 30 seconds is well worth it to make sure everybody gets home safe.”