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Harvest season brings potential danger to motorists

Motorists traveling on Minnesota highways this fall need to be aware of large, slow-moving farm equipment transporting crops to markets, grain elevators and processing plants, according to a press release.

Farm equipment is large and heavy, making it hard for operators to accelerate, slow down and stop. The machines also make wide turns and sometimes cross over the center line. They also can create large blind spots, making it difficult for operators to see approaching vehicles. All of these factors require all drivers to exercise extra caution during harvest season.

“Harvest season is in full swing and farmers in every corner of the state are out using the highways,” said Brian Sorenson, state traffic engineer. “Motorists need to be prepared to encounter slow-moving farm vehicles, especially on rural, two-lane roads now through November. Also, remain patient, as most farmers will try to allow vehicles to pass them in an area where it is safe to do so.”

Approaching farm equipment with caution can help prevent crashes.

In the last five years, from 2015 to 2019, 14 people died on Minnesota roads as a result of a crash involving farm equipment.

During that same time period, 29 people suffered life-changing injuries as a result of a crash involving farm equipment.

“Many factors play a role in farm equipment crashes, but distractions and lack of patience are two of the biggest factors,” said Lt. Gordon Shank, Minnesota State Patrol. “Drive smart by practicing patience when behind farm equipment, parking the phone and putting all distractions away.”

Motorists

• Watch for falling debris or debris in the road.

• Don’t veer for debris; it could result in a head-on collision or a driver going into a ditch.

• Wait for a safe opportunity to pass. Farm equipment operators often make wide left turns, which can indicate to a motorist that the operator is moving right and it is safe to pass.

• Wear seat belts.

• Drive with headlights on at all times.

• Park the phone and put the distractions away.

Equipment operators

• Use lights and flashers to make equipment more visible.

• Use slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 mph.

• Consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, especially at night.

• Wear seat belts.

• Park the phone and put the distractions away.

MnDOT and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety are anchoring partners of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety program.

A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma services.