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Travelling in rural areas this Fall? 10 tips on sharing the road with farm equipment

Road through fields, agricultural area - aerial view. Cars are lined up behind farm equipment on the road.

As the Fall transforms Ontario into a breathtaking setting of vibrant landscapes, rural areas offer endless activities and attractions, waiting to be discovered by visitors like you. Fall harvest festivals, hiking, fairs, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, apple picking, and bakeries with seasonal treats – there are so many reasons to visit rural communities this time of year.

Driving through these rural areas can be a peaceful and scenic experience, but it also presents unique challenges, especially when sharing the road with agricultural machinery. This equipment can include tractors, combines, wagons, horse-drawn buggies, and more. During harvest season, farmers are moving larger equipment to harvest, and it starts to get dark earlier making conditions even more difficult.

Do you know the best practices for sharing the road with farm equipment? Here are 10 tips to stay safe on the road.

10 tips on sharing the road with farm equipment

  1. SLOW DOWN! If you see a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign on a piece of equipment, this means it will be travelling below the posted speed. Slowing down and sharing the road is essential. Your life depends on it.

    Slow Moving Vehicle sign
  2. Be Patient. Most equipment will be out of your way shortly. If you do come upon slow moving equipment, take a deep breath and be patient. When the path is clear make sure that the driver of the equipment can see you before you pass. The same rules apply to driving at any time; do not cross on a double line, and do not cross on a hill or around a bend.

  3. Closure time. Farm equipment continues to increase in size and speed. Recognize that a car travelling at 88 km/H has ONLY seven seconds to react to the tractor travelling at 24 km/H along the road. Not only are they large, but they also pull substantial weight along the road. If the wagons are full of crops there may be 20 or more tonnes in that wagon. It is important to give the equipment lots of room and not attempt to pass when the road conditions are unsafe. 

  4. Stay alert. Be on the lookout for farm machinery and be prepared to adjust your driving accordingly. Always stay off your phone while driving and avoid distractions.

  5. Farm equipment operators can’t see you. When you are following directly behind farm equipment, it is essential to stay a safe distance behind the machinery. They will not be able to see you behind them. And you will not be able to see ahead or adjust your speed to avoid a collision. 

  6. Do not expect equipment to pull over to the side of the road. This can be extremely dangerous for the operator. If the agricultural equipment pulls over too far onto the edge of the road it can cause the shoulder of the road to collapse resulting in the equipment going into the ditch or rolling over.

  7. Driving near horse-drawn vehicles. If you see a horse-drawn buggy, cart, or vehicle, slow down and be extremely cautious. Follow them at a safe distance and only pass when it is safe to do so. When passing, give as much distance as you can. Passing too closely or too quickly could scare or startle the horse, causing it to panic which puts both you and the buggy occupants in danger. Loud noises such as horns, loose tarps, or revving engines can also cause unpredictable behaviours from horses.

  8. Watch for turn signals. Modern farm equipment often comes equipped with turning signals, four-way flashers and flashing beacons. However, some older machines might not have these features. Pay attention to turn signals and any hand signals from the operator. Always wait until the equipment has completed its direction of travel before attempting to pass. Farm equipment may be larger than it appears. Make sure the driver can see you before you pass. Then follow the regular rules of the road: never pass on curves or hills, when nearing intersections or at railroad crossings, bridges, or tunnels.

  9. Tractors with wagons, self-propelled implements, and transport trucks require more room to turn. If they are making a right-hand turn into a field or laneway, they may be required to crowd on the Centre line to ensure they can access the field safely. Do not try to pass as this is never good for either party involved.

  10. Plan your rural trip. Check that your vehicle is prepared for travel. Ensure you have enough fluids, and your loads are secured. Before you leave, review your route. Check for weather conditions and construction areas.

By working together, drivers and farmers can share the roads and contribute to a safer rural driving experience for everyone. Let’s get everyone home safe at the end of the day.

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