ST. PAUL -- It's harvest time and the Minnesota Department of Transportation is urging motorists on Minnesota highways to be aware of the large farm equipment transporting crops to markets, grain elevators and processing plants.
"Record harvests are being predicted this year," said Sue Groth, state traffic engineer. "This means farmers will be making more trips than usual. Motorists need to be prepared to encounter these slow-moving farm vehicles, especially on rural, two-lane roads."
Farm equipment is large and heavy, making it hard for operators to accelerate, slow down and stop. The machines also make wide turns and sometimes cross over the center line. In addition, farm vehicles can create large blind spots, making it difficult for operators to see approaching vehicles. All of these factors can cause serious crashes.
In 2009, there were 151 crashes on Minnesota roads involving farm vehicles, resulting in nine fatalities and 78 injuries; seven of the injuries were serious, according to the Department of Public Safety.
"The leading contributing crash factors in farm equipment/vehicle crashes are inattention, speeding and unsafe passing," said Cheri Marti, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. "When approaching farm equipment, motorists should slow down and use extreme caution."
Motorists are also urged to:
- Watch for debris dropped by trucks hauling sugar beets and other crops and remember, it is safer to brake or drive through debris than to veer into oncoming cars or off the road.
- Wait for a safe place to pass.
- Wear safety belts.
- Drive with headlights on at all times.
Farm equipment operators should:
- Use lights and flashers to make equipment more visible.
- Use slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 mph.
- Consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, especially at night.