The arrival of spring brings an increase in farm machinery traveling on Finger Lakes roadways. “Farmers are considered essential workers during this state of emergency pandemic pause, and that means farm related tractors and agriculture equipment require essential travel to fields and farms to grow crops for food we all depend on,” says Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, adding, “We urge motorists to use caution, slow down as they encounter farm tractors and agriculture equipment on our roadways.”

According to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, 15,000 wrecks involving farm vehicles occur every year in the United States, and 55% of highway deaths take place on rural roads. 

Spike says farmers generally pull over to allow cars to pass when it’s safe to do so. Most farm equipment travel less than 25 mph, and exhibit the orange triangle slow moving vehicle (SMV) sign to warn approaching traffic of the slow speed. Eighty percent of all traffic collisions with farm equipment are rear end collisions into the farm equipment. This is due to the approaching vehicle following to closely or at a speed too fast for conditions.

Others approach a bicycle rider or horse and buggy too fast, even when the buggy also displays the SMV triangle.

“When a motorist comes up behind a slow moving vehicle they must brake for safety and have patience,” says Spike. “Saving a few moments is not worth the risk of endangering anyone’s life by illegal passing, swerving or approaching at high speeds and being unable to stop. It’s important to know that at 55 mph the gap between the motorist and the farm tractor at 15 mph is the length of a football field, and (it) is covered in approximately five seconds.”

Spike adds, “It is not unusual for motorists on highways, especially rural roadways, to have to share the road with farm tractors, agriculture equipment, horse drawn buggies, bicycles and other SMVs that lack the safety features motor vehicles provide the motorist.”