As the fall harvest is underway in Idaho, drivers need to be aware of the increased risk of encountering farm equipment on county roads. Here are some tips to avoid an accident when sharing the road with tractors and other farm implements, as well as a little talked about statute that farmers should be aware of when driving on two-lane highways.

What drivers need to know about sharing roads with farm equipment

  • Be aware of blind spots. Farm equipment is often large and can block your view. Before passing, make sure you can see the operator and that he or she is not signaling to turn.
  • Slow down and use caution when approaching or passing farm equipment. Most equipment is quite large and those drivers aren't able to react quickly.
  • Be patient. Remember that farm equipment is slow-moving and may need to make several turns before getting to its destination. Looking for a place to pass where one doesn't exist won't help you get where you're going any faster.
  • Obey traffic laws. Just as you would with any other vehicle, yield the right-of-way to farm equipment when turning or crossing traffic.
  • Don't pass until it's safe to do so. This one seems pretty obvious, but passing farm equipment can be tricky. It's hard to see around large equipment making it even more difficult to pass, even when a tractor is driving at a snail's pace. If you're lucky, a farmer will wave you around if he sees a safe opening for you to go around.

What farmers need to know about sharing the road with motorists

This isn't talked about often, but it's just as much the farmer's responsibility as motorists to ensure a safe commute for themselves and the cars and trucks they're sharing the road with.

Recently, the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office posted a reminder of state statutes that farmers should be aware of. If the vehicle you are driving is holding up traffic, it's up to you to find a safe place to pull over to allow other drivers to pass safely.

On a two-lane highway outside an urban area where passing is unsafe due to oncoming traffic or other conditions, the driver of a vehicle traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic and behind which three (3) or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the following vehicles to pass.

This statute doesn't just apply to tractors and heavy equipment; all motorists are responsible for finding a safe place to pull off if they are holding up traffic. There's also a statute that applies specifically to slow-moving vehicles that reinforces the former.

It's mostly about cooperation

I'm always appreciative when a farmer gives me a wave when it's safe to pass, just as I'm sure they appreciate it when I don't follow so close that they can't see me. As with all things, it's up to everyone to keep the roads safe. Be careful out there.

LOOK: What major laws were passed the year you were born?

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