Emily Hanlin mugshotBy Emily Hanlin

Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau

STATELINE – Every Tuesday and Thursday morning as I make my way down Montague Road towards Freeport, I make sure that I am extra careful coming up over the hills because I know that farmers are hard at work. It is that time of year when harvest is in full swing and farmers are moving equipment from field to field. It is very important to slow down, take your time, and be patient.

Farm equipment is wide and moves very slowly, usually no more than 25 mph. Many rural roads are narrow and have several blind spots that make it difficult for motorists as well as farmers to see each other.

“If you are driving on a rural road at 55 mph, you are going to close the gap at 300 ft. faster than you may realize when you approach that tractor moving only 20 mph. We are talking five seconds we are also talking the length of a football field,” Karen Funkenbush, Rural Safety and Health Specialist from the University of Missouri Extension said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation reminds farmers that all vehicles using public roads exclusively for agricultural purposes are required to use a new Slow Moving Vehicle emblem that is brighter and longer lasting than previous ones. These triangular SMV emblems serve as a caution to motorists that the vehicle they are overtaking will likely be moving at a rate of speed, much slower than their own.

According to COUNTRY Financial® group, Fifty-three people were killed in collisions involving farm equipment between 2005 and 2015. This represents 21 percent of all farm-related deaths in that time period in Illinois.

Other farming accidents resulting in fatalities from 2005 from 2015 include 91 deaths from machinery rollovers, and 28 deaths from grain bin incidents. These numbers along with 84 more incidents from other farm related accidents equal a total of 256 deaths from farm accidents alone in 2005 through 2015. If we as motorists can help avoid some of these accidents in the future, we need to do so by being mindful while sharing the roadways.

“In most cases, drivers come upon a very slow-moving tractor or combine and think they can wait to slow down. They don’t realize most farm equipment only travels 15 to 20 miles per hour,” Eric Vanasdale, senior loss control representative from COUNTRY Financial said.

Vanasdale encourages motorists to slow down as soon as they see farm equipment on the roadway and to be cautious of farm equipment making wide turns or sudden left turns into fields or driveways. Also, only pass farm equipment when it is safe to do so.

“We all need to work together to keep the roadway safe,” Vanasdale said. “Rural motorists need to understand farm equipment is there and to share the road and farmers need to be good stewards of the roads, too.”

Farmers should only move equipment during slow traffic times and are encouraged to always remove the corn or bean head attachment on their combines for transport.

“Corn heads get wider as equipment grows larger. Roadway accidents can be made worse by a combine with the corn head attached,” Vanasdale said.

“Farmers don’t want to slow down traffic any more than motorists want to be stuck behind them,” Illinois Agriculture Director from 2003 through 2008 Chuck Hartke said. “But, it’s absolutely essential that farm and non-farm vehicles share the roadway. Agriculture is vital to our economy, and farmers have a limited time in which to harvest their crops.”

So next time you approach a slow moving combine or tractor on a rural roadway please slow down; have patience; and pass with the highest level of caution. Also, smile and wave at that farmer up on the tractor to show your appreciation for all their hard work.


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