Give farmers extra room on the highway
Last week I drove a combine down the highway for 15 miles from one field to another. Iím in a combine that takes over half the road even as I hang out on the left shoulder. Every time I do this, I end up being completely appalled at the many drivers who do not understand how dangerous it is to speed by me, pass on double lines, pass on my side of the middle line or cut in too soon in front of me.
People, people, people! I am big. I am slow. I need to pull into the other lane to go around mailboxes and road signs. And there is no other way to get from point A to point B except down the same road you are using. I want you to be safe. I want me to be safe. Iím not sure you understand the situation so I am going to try to explain it to you.
Top speed for my rig is about 20 miles per hour. That means you really need to slow down quite a bit. Never, never, never try to pass at top speed because I donít have time to react if I need to.
As I went down the highway last week, it was late afternoon. I have two large rearview mirrors so I should be able to see you coming, right? Wrong. The sun was shining right on both of those mirrors as I was going straight east and I could only see shadows as cars got quite close. If said car is traveling at 65 miles per hour, I have literally no time to adjust.
Combines and tractors, especially older models, can have very loose steering. Often they weave a little from side to side. Just because it looks like I am over enough for you to pass doesnít mean I may not weave a little before you get to me. If you are going slowly and pull over to the left side of the road, a little weaving would not be a problem. BUT, if you try to pass on my side of the center line, that weaving could kill you!
If the farm equipment you are approaching is pulling an implement, the size of the combination can be deceptive. On our farm, we had a gentleman hit the tip of an undercutter blade when he tried to pass too close to the equipment. Luckily, he did not have a passenger and only put a hole in his windshield. Give farm equipment lots of room. If you need to pull out onto the left shoulder to be safe, please slowly do so.
Farm equipment is long. It will take you more time to pass a long farm rig than a normal car. If you have slowed down appropriately, you need to give yourself more time to avoid approaching traffic. Hopefully, they will know the rules and slow down, too.
Quite often, there is more than one vehicle in the traveling group. Usually, those drivers will leave adequate room for you to pull in between vehicles. Please be extremely cautious if you are passing more than one vehicle.
Farm equipment is wide. Iíve already stressed pulling way over to the left as you pass. However, on some bridges, that rig will need to pull over to the middle of the road to avoid hitting on the concrete sides of the bridge. You simply cannot pass there. Be aware of road conditions ahead and be prepared to wait your turn on the bridge. Generally, if I approach a bridge in traffic, I will pull over to the right farther and let you pass. BUT, if the driver doesnít, you be prepared to pass after the farmer crosses the bridge or other narrow spots in the road.
No farmer wants to ruin your travels by slowing you down or, Heaven forbid, involving you in an accident. Your safety depends mainly on being aware of what is going on, knowing what you should do, slowing down and pulling over. The old safety motto still applies, ďThe life you save may be your own.Ē
Please remember, quite often the trip for that farmer has been long, he or she has been working overtime and is tired. As you pass, give a big wave to let him or her know you didnít mind the wait and you appreciate the food they provide for your tables. Believe me, you will be a ray of sunshine in a long day.
Hereís to your safe travels from all of us in agriculture.
ó Pam Potthoff, Trenton, Neb., is president of Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics.