How to Safely Drive Around Slow-Moving Vehicles and Farm Equipment
Despite that only 19 out of every 100 Americans live in rural areas, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that well over half of all roadway fatalities occur in these regions. The fatality rate on rural roads is twice as high as on urban roads.
These surprising statistics are partly due to collisions involving slow-moving vehicles and farm equipment. As more people move out of cities to rural areas and commute to work, high-speed driving on rural two-lane roads often leads to collisions with these slow-moving vehicles due to drivers’ impatience, a failure to anticipate these vehicles’ movements, poor visibility, bad road conditions, or a combination of factors.
This means you need to be alert and cautious when passing slow-moving vehicles and farm equipment on rural roads, even if it appears safe to do so.
Look for the Sign
Vehicles such as tractors, farm equipment, and those with oversized loads that travel at a speed of 25 mph or less are identified by the Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign. The symbol, a fluorescent orange triangular emblem, is usually located somewhere on the rear of the vehicles, and its reflective red border makes it visible at night.
You’ll typically be able to spot a slow-moving vehicle like a tractor from a fair distance without seeing the sign. However, other vehicles, such as trucks towing trailers with oversized loads and construction equipment, may have SMV signs too that you won’t notice until you’re close to the vehicle. If you haven’t already, slow down as soon as you spot the sign.
It can be difficult to judge speed from a distance, and you may misjudge the SMV’s speed compared to yours from a distance, potentially causing you to approach them too fast to avoid colliding with them from behind. Also, remember that slow-moving vehicles take longer to accelerate and lose momentum going uphill. The first thing you need to do when you spot a slow-moving vehicle or the SMV sign on another vehicle is to slow down and leave sufficient distance between you and the vehicle. Missouri recommends keeping a 3-second following distance between you and any vehicle ahead of you, measured by how long it takes you to pass an object, such as a road sign, after the vehicle ahead of you does.
Don’t rush to pass the vehicle. It may not feel like it, but following the vehicle from a distance until it’s safe to overtake it will only add a few minutes at most to your total travel time. Machinery may be wider and longer than it appears, and operators may need extra room to turn. Ensure you have a clear path and there is no oncoming traffic before you attempt to pass.
Keep an Eye on the Left Side of the Road
Collisions often happen when a driver has failed to see that a farm vehicle is in the process of turning left and is attempting to pass it. This is because vehicles like tractors pull closer to the right side of the road to prepare for a wide left turn, which may confuse the driver behind into thinking that the tractor is pulling over to let them pass. Watch for the vehicle’s signal lights and wait for it to make a turn, right or left, before you speed up to pass.
Signal in Time
When you feel that it’s safe to make a pass, signal the machinery operator and move to the passing lane leaving ample time for them to see your movement before attempting the pass. Remember that the operator may not hear your horn because of the noise from the tractor, and the vehicle may have large blind spots you’re unaware of.
Collisions with slow-moving vehicles are often deadlier for the passenger vehicle than for the farm equipment operator. If you have been involved in a car accident that occurred while driving around slow-moving vehicles, or if you were the operator of the slow-moving vehicle and were injured in an accident that you feel was caused by an impatient or reckless driver, you should contact an attorney for a free consultation.
Quality Legal Representation From Cofman Townsley
If you’ve been involved in a car accident caused by slow-moving vehicles, you may have suffered physical injuries or sustained vehicle damage. You deserve a law firm with a firm grasp of evaluating the situation and determining fault. At Cofman Townsley, we have over 40 years of experience helping injured individuals and their families recover compensation following an accident.
After an accident caused by unsafe driving or by a slow-moving vehicle, get in touch with us today to schedule a confidential, free consultation.