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Caution being urged on roads during fall harvest

ST. PAUL -- Recent traffic accidents involving farm equipment, including one fatal crash, have prompted the Minnesota Department of Transportation to remind motorists to be aware of large farm equipment on the roads during harvest season.

"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. "Motorists need to be prepared to encounter 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.

During 2008-10, there were 433 traffic crashes on Minnesota roads involving at least one farm vehicle, resulting in 15 fatalities and 218 injuries.

Of the 15 fatalities, five were farm vehicle riders.

Of the 218 injuries, 65 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."

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.