Use caution when driving around tractors

Be careful, it’s my loved one.

You know this old Frank Sinatra tune, where it’s not his watch, note or book that he gave, but his heart; every time my loved ones or myself get in the cab of our tractors or behind the wheel of the truck pulling farm machinery down the road, I get scared. People are terrible drivers around farm equipment. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are approximately 15,000 collisions involving farm vehicles on U.S. roadways each year. Let me share a few first hand experiences.

My brother was driving down Route 88 this spring with the John Deere tractor, pulling the planter, which hangs over the center yellow line. I followed him with the truck and the old gravity wagon full of fertilizer; we were going about 35 mph. We went slowly. We had people pass on double yellow lines, going uphill on the overpass and even in places where they could not see; all in the name of getting where they were going quickly. We even had an Ohio State Highway Patrol car pass us in a dangerous location. In fact, we almost witnessed a head-on collision because someone was in a hurry to pass us.

Last week driving home from a parade on a 1925 Fordson tractor, my mother had one car safely pass her, but the second car thought he could sneak past her too, going too fast. Due to the grace and awareness of the oncoming car, a head-on collision was avoided. My family has been lucky, we’ve managed to avoid serious collisions and accidents, but my cousin was not so lucky. Last fall during harvest he was pulling a grain wagon and a car came over the hill going too fast and hit him. It tipped the wagon and pushed the tractor into the ditch. where my cousin bounced around the cab like a tennis ball in an Andre Agassi match. He had some significant injuries, but the wagon and ractor sustained serious damage, and the grain was lost.

With spraying, fertilizer application, harvest and a host of other farm related activities coming up this summer, please take note of the rules and common sense when passing or driving behind farm machinery

1. People, slow down and be smart! for pete’s sake, slow down! My top speed might be 25 mph, but if I’m fully loaded or top heavy, I’m going to be going slower. This isn’t the Indy 500, someone I love is driving and might die if you hit them. We don’t have seatbelts. Also, only pass when you can see oncoming traffic. It’s not my responsibility to make sure you can see an oncoming car, it’s yours.

2. Left of center – This one went to a court case, so do not be that person. Some of our machinery is wider than the road. In the case, State v. Leichty, here in Ohio, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the tractor driver when his disc planter was struck by an oncoming car, even after the tractor driver slowed down and pulled over. The state alleged that it was not legal for the planter to hang over the centerline, but the Supreme Court found that it was. I’ll move over as much as I can, but I can’t go too far into the berm, I might tip over! Please make sure that you move too. Hitting you would really ruin my day and probably yours too.

As I wrap up this article and go about my day, please, I beg you, use more caution around farm machinery on the roads. Pay attention, slow down, move over, and wave nicely; we’re just someone’s loved one trying to do our job.

For more information check out the Ohio Revised Code sections 4501.01, 4507.03, 4511.01, 4511.202, 4513.11, and 4513.99.

Christen Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her Ph.D. at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.