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MnDOT urging road safety during harvest season

ST. PAUL -- Motorists traveling on Minnesota highways this fall need to be aware of large farm equipment transporting crops to markets, grain elevators and processing plants, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

This message comes following two recent crashes, including one fatal crash, involving farm equipment.

"Harvest season is in full swing and farmers in every corner of the state are out using the highways," said Sue Groth, state traffic engineer, in a news release.

"Motorists need to be prepared to encounter slow-moving farm vehicles, especially on rural, two-lane roads."

During 2009-2011, there were 409 traffic crashes on Minnesota roads involving at least one farm vehicle, resulting in 18 fatalities and 229 injuries. Of the 18 fatalities, seven were farm vehicle riders; of the 229 injuries, 69 were farm vehicle riders, according to the Department of Public Safety.

"The leading contributing crash factors in farm equipment/vehicle crashes are inattention, speeding and unsafe passing," Groth said. "When approaching farm equipment, motorists should slow down and use extreme caution."

Tips for motorists

- Watch for debris dropped by trucks hauling sugar beets and other crops. 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 seatbelts.

- Drive with headlights on at all times.

Tips for operators of farm equipment

- 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.