Driving defensively is important for all drivers, but is especially critical for farm machinery operators. According to the National Ag Safety Database, crash fatality rates in the most rural counties are almost double what they are in urban counties.
Here are some more surprising facts about rural driving that come from the database:
- Rural crashes are more frequent, more severe and more likely to result in death than urban crashes
- Tractors are involved in the majority of crashes on roadways
- Tractors are getting faster; some travel up to 45 mph
- Most farmers believe driving their tractors on rural roads is more dangerous now than it was a few years ago
Stay safe on public roads
Especially during planting and harvest seasons, more farm vehicles share roadways with other vehicles. That includes planters, combines and other farm equipment moving from one field to another, and trucks and tractors transporting produce or farm supplies.
To help ensure your safety:
1. Display the Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem on all off-road vehicles.
2. Make sure emblems are in good condition and properly mounted.
3. Use proper vehicle lighting.
4. Use flashers anytime you use public roads. The American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) recommends 2 flashing amber lights, mounted at least 42 inches high, in both the front and rear.
5. Comply with your state laws. For headlights and tail lights:
- Most state laws require using headlights 30 minutes before sunset, until 30 minutes after sunrise.
- Also use headlights whenever insufficient light or unfavorable weather conditions exist. ASAE recommends 2 headlights on the front, at the same level, positioned as far apart as possible. They also recommend 1 rear-left and 1 rear-right red tail light mounted as far apart as possible, and 2 red reflectors visible from the rear.
6. Inspect hitches to verify they are sturdy and properly mounted before towing equipment or using wagons.
7. Always use safety chains, if equipped.