Save Lives on Wisconsin Roads this Planting Season

As we’re heading into Spring, it’s the time of year when you’ll start to see more farm equipment on the roadways as farmers start fieldwork and planting crops. Both farmers and motorists can play a role in preventing deaths on Wisconsin roadways.

Farm-related deaths on roadways are increasing, says John Shutske, an agricultural safety specialist at UW-Madison. He says this is due to a variety of reasons: more data is being collected, equipment is getting larger, roads are getting busier, and urban sprawl brings drivers into rural areas who are unfamiliar with farm traffic.

Farmer and motorists can all play a role in keeping each other out of harm’s way.

3 Driving Safety Tips for Farmers

1. Slow Moving Vehicle Signs

  • Wisconsin law requires the SMV emblem on the tractor. It needs to be clean and clearly visible from the backside of the machine.
  • It’s recommended to put the SMV emblem on trailing equipment as well. Go overboard on making yourself visible.
  • Replace old, faded signs with a new one for free.

2. Lights

  • It’s recommended to have flashing amber lights on any time you’re on the road, even though Wisconsin law doesn’t require it on “narrow” equipment.
  • Turn all your lights on, such as headlights, for maximum visibility: “Light yourself up like a Christmas tree regardless of state and federal regulation specifics.”
  • When you’re on the road, turn off the rear-facing ‘work light’. This looks like an oncoming car headlight to vehicles behind you.

3. Turn Signals

  • Many collisions happen when implements make a left-hand turn, and a car passes them on the left.
  • If your implement doesn’t already have turn signals, an after-market addition or retrofit kit is worth the investment.

3 Driving Safety Tips for Motorists

1. Be Patient

  • Farmers are working hard this time of year, especially when a cool Spring gives them a late start and tighter window in the field.

2. Be Deliberate in Passing

  • Always be aware, especially if a piece of equipment is slowing down, that farmers may be making a left-hand turn.
  • If you run into the back of a piece of equipment at 40-50 miles per hour, you are essentially approaching a brick wall. “The chances of surviving a collision like that without an injury are pretty slim,” Shutske says.

3. Be Cautious During Low-Light Times

  • Many collisions happen either early in the morning while people are in a hurry to get to work, or in the evening on the way home from work or school.
  • State law doesn’t require farmers to have their lights on for “narrow” equipment, so don’t depend on a lot of lights to warn you that there’s a slow moving vehicle.

As Wisconsin’s No. 1 farm insurer, it’s important to us to educate on the risks farmers face so we can prevent accidents and protect everyone. Talk with your local Rural Mutual agent how we can protect your farm.