A familiar sight in West Texas this time of the year is large agricultural equipment driving along the sides of highways and down rural roads. It’s also an indication that the cotton harvest is in full swing.
As a consumer whose daily commute takes you through areas populated with farm fields, it’s important to keep several things in mind, including important safety tips.
1. Cotton is vital to the U.S. and West Texas economy
While getting stuck behind a slow-moving farm vehicle might seem like an endless aggravation, remember how important the cotton harvest is to the overall economy. For one, cotton adds $120 billion to the United States economy, with $24 billion of that connected to Texas growers.
Furthermore, cotton farmers deserve a lot of credit in helping to reduce the U.S. trade deficit.
2. A farmer understands your frustration
A farmer driving large agricultural equipment isn’t delaying your daily commute on purpose. Instead, they’re waiting for the first opportunity to pull off the side of the road (in a safe location) so that you can pass. In some cases, the road shoulder may be soft, steep, or wet and cause a farm vehicle to tip, or is not sturdy enough to support the vehicle.
3. Yield to wide vehicles
If farm equipment is wider than the lane of travel, pull off the road to let it pass or back up to a safer location.
4. Recognize the slow-moving vehicle sign
Slow down immediately when you see the slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem. Think of the emblem as a warning to adjust your speed.
5. Watch for hand signals
The operator of large farm equipment may signal for you to wait when you think you have the opportunity to pass. After all, the sheer size of farm equipment makes it necessary to make wide turns, so veering to the right may mean that it’s preparing to turn left.
6. Pass with care
Use caution whenever passing a farm vehicle while remembering the following tips:
- Watch for vehicles behind you that may also be trying to pass.
- Don’t pass until you can see clearly ahead of you and the vehicle that you’re attempting to pass.
- Never pass when there is anything – such as curves and hills – that blocks your view of oncoming traffic.
7. Don't assume that the vehicle operator knows you're there
While most farm equipment operators regularly check to see if there is traffic behind them, they’ll spend most of their time looking ahead to keep the machinery safely on the road and keep an eye on oncoming traffic. Moreover, most farm machinery is loud and the driver probably won’t be able to hear your vehicle. Don’t assume that the driver knows you are there. Be sure to give a quick, friendly wave as you pass to thank the farmer for allowing you room to pass, and for their continued contributions to our economy.