Harvest season is the time of year when some of the best aspects of Midwest agriculture can be experienced by all. Pumpkin patches and apple orchards in Illinois are open for visitors and the golden-brown fields of mature crops line rural roads across the state. But along with these markers of fall come the dangers of transportation incidents associated with harvest.
The harvest season in Illinois typically spans from September to November each year. During that time, drivers should be on the lookout for a variety of farm equipment including combines, tractors, grain carts and semi-trucks. These large vehicles are not only cumbersome for the people operating them, but they take up extra room while traveling down the road, moving slowly and making wide turns.
“Farmers and equipment operators are working hard this season to transport crops grown in our state,” said Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) Assistant Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Rodney Knittel. “But while fall is a busy time of year for many of us, especially farmers in the middle of harvest, it’s important to take rural road safety seriously.”
When drivers see slow-moving vehicles on the road, they should slow down and be prepared to stop. They should look for lights on the equipment to indicate any changes in speed or direction.
If the operator pulls the equipment to the side of the road, other motorists should not assume the driver is letting someone pass; they may be preparing for a turn. Before passing, other motorists should use extreme caution and always wait for the equipment operator to acknowledge their presence and indicate that it is safe to pass.
In addition to using caution around agriculture equipment, it is also important to keep in mind that rural roads have unique characteristics and conditions that can make them more challenging to navigate.
Since they are not maintained in the same way city streets are, country roads may have poor or damaged surfaces and narrow lanes with no shoulders. Center and edge lines, sharp turns and blind hills may also be unmarked. These conditions can be extremely hazardous at night when there are no streetlights to illuminate the road.
“Remember, harvest activities do not stop when the sun goes down, so be prepared to encounter agriculture equipment on the road at all times,” said Knittel.
IFB’s Associate Field Support Director Jackie Jones, who oversees the organization’s health and safety programs, said above all, motorists should slow down and be patient when traveling.
“Farmers on the road are doing their best to keep other motorists safe so that everyone can get home to their families at the end of the day,” said Jones. “But it takes everyone working together to make that happen.”
For more tips on road safety during the harvest season, visit www.ilfb.org/ruralroadsafety.