ANNAPOLIS, MD – Spring is here and planting season is underway throughout much of Maryland. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) reminds motorists that they should expect to see an increase of slow-moving farm equipment traveling on state and rural roads. Motorists and farmers are urged to drive with caution and to share the road.
“It is important that Marylanders are aware that they may encounter large farm vehicles on their routes this time of year,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “Planting season is an extremely busy and important time for Maryland farmers who are moving about preparing their fields for this season’s crops. Motorists who approach farm equipment should slow down, be patient, and when safe, pass with caution. Doing so ensures we all get to where we need to go.”
Maryland is home to 12,429 farms with about two million acres of farmland. The typical planting season usually extends from early April through May. A recent study done by the Maryland Soybean Board found that from 2015-2018 a total of 234 car accidents involved farm vehicles/equipment, with a majority of them occurring between May-October on county and state roads due to a lack of attention.
Farmers are legally allowed to operate farm equipment on public roadways and there are times when farm vehicles must operate on highways to move between farm and field. Farming equipment is very large, and will likely share travel lanes while working along adjacent farmland.
If you encounter farm equipment, a farmer understands that your trip is being delayed, so he or she will pull off of the road at the first available safe location to allow you to pass. Do not assume that the farmer can immediately move aside. Road shoulders may be soft, wet, or steep, and this could cause a farm vehicle to tip. Shoulders may be unable to support heavy farm vehicles.
Tips for motorists:
- If you see the slow-moving vehicle emblem (SMV) – the neon orange triangle sign – on a piece of equipment, slow down and increase your distance. This sign warns drivers of vehicles moving under 25 mph.
- If a farmer has pulled off to the side of the road to allow you to pass, do so with caution and be sure there are no other obstacles in the way.
- If a farmer cannot pull off to the side of the road, but you feel you must pass, be sure you can do so safely. If you must enter the oncoming lane of traffic, do not pass unless you can clearly see ahead of both you and the farm equipment. If there are any curves or hills ahead that may block your view or the view of oncoming vehicles, do not pass. Do not pass if you are in a designated “No Passing Zone” or within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad grade crossing, bridge, elevation structure, or tunnel.
- Do not assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right or is letting you pass. Due to the size of some farm implements, the farmer must execute wide left-hand turns. If you are unsure, check the operator’s hand signals and check the left side of the road for gates, driveways, or any place a farm vehicle may turn.
Tips for operators of slow-moving equipment:
- Before moving farm equipment, make sure the SMV emblem is displayed and warning lights/flashers are working. Adjust mirrors and ensure equipment is working properly.
- When moving equipment, try your best to avoid traveling during high-traffic times. Travel during the day when there is more visibility and when the weather is clear.
- On the road, drive slowly and stay alert for obstacles and other motor vehicles. Make sure to always use turn or hand signals when making directional changes. When another car approaches behind you, pull off to the side of the road to allow them to pass whenever there is a safe spot to do so.