Planting season is in full swing

Published 11:10 am Friday, May 27, 2022

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Planting season is in full swing in Virginia, and a summer of farming activities is right around the corner.

During the summer and into late fall, Virginia farmers frequently need to drive large farming equipment on public roadways to complete certain tasks. Doing so comes with inherent risks, and farmers are being urged to follow safety protocols to mitigate the challenges.

Virginia law requires vehicles that travel slower than 25 mph to be equipped with rear-mounted, triangular slow-moving vehicle signs when the equipment is being driven on public roadways. The reflective orange signs act as a warning for approaching drivers to slow down, as passenger vehicles often travel at twice the speed — or more — of large farming equipment.

State law also requires farming equipment to have lights, and it’s mandatory to have them on from sunset to sunrise when traveling the highways.

Farmers also are encouraged to equip farm vehicles with flashing amber lights and reflectors to increase visibility. This is especially important for oversize vehicles that take up more than one lane.

“Farmers often are trying to squeeze in as much work as they can, and sometimes they move from field to field at night,” noted Andrew Smith, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation associate director of governmental relations.

“They should remember that using lights is not only a good idea, but it’s the law to make sure other drivers can see them on the road,” Smith noted. “Reflective markings and flashing lights also allow other drivers to see equipment when they’re approaching or passing.”

Additionally, farmers should utilize escort vehicles when visibility is an issue on routes that include blind corners or hills, or when equipment occupies more than one lane.

And, as always, motorists also must remember to share roads safely with farming equipment.

“Accidents involving large equipment can be dangerous for the drivers of those regular vehicles, but you also need to remember that tractors and other farming equipment aren’t equipped with safety technology that cars and trucks have,” said Dana Fisher, chairman of the VFBF Farm Safety Advisory Committee.

“Everyone is vulnerable in these situations,” he added. “That’s why we, as drivers, need to make sure we’re eliminating distractions behind the wheel, watch our speed and keep an eye out for those curves and hills to avoid getting in accidents. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, the result can be dire for all those involved.”