Sharing the Road With Farm Equipment
Over half of the almost 1,300 miles of roads maintained by Washington County are in a rural setting. Scenic two-lane roads wind through farms, forests, nurseries and vineyards. Due to recent population growth, more high-speed traffic now travels on roads not designed for that kind of traffic.
Motorists traveling Washington County's rural roads may occasionally find themselves sharing the road with large, slow-moving farm equipment. Not recognizing slow moving vehicles, or simply not being aware of them until it is too late, can cause a collision.
How can you recognize farm vehicles? According to the Oregon Drivers Manual, farm machinery and equipment that travels at 25 mph or less must display a slow moving vehicle emblem on the rear when traveling on public roads. As a motorist, you must be prepared to slow down when you see this triangular sign with a red reflectorized border and a fluorescent orange-red center. Some farm vehicles may also display flashing yellow lights.
They're so big and slow, how could you possibly rear-end a farm vehicle? Consider this: A car traveling 55 mph requires about 224 feet to stop on dry pavement, assuming average reaction time and braking. A car traveling 55 mph can close a 300-foot gap (the length of a football field) and overtake a tractor moving at 15 mph in about five seconds. If you do not begin to slow as soon as you see a farm vehicle, you might not have time to avoid a collision.
The most common accident occurs when a slow-moving farm vehicle is turning left. Although a tractor may appear to be stopping beside the road or turning right, it might actually be turning left. The farmer is swinging wide to line up with a gate or driveway; the driver behind the farmer may think the farmer is pulling over to let the driver pass. Look for gates, driveways or access roads on the left side of the road that may indicate a left turn.
How and when is it safe to pass farm equipment? Motorists may pass a slow moving vehicle when you can see that the roadway is clear of oncoming traffic far enough ahead to safely complete the pass. You can pass a slow moving vehicle in a no passing zone, but you must yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles. When passing, be extra cautious. Tractors and other farm equipment may be wider than they look from behind and may require ample space in both lanes.
The keys to safety when sharing the road with farm equipment are caution and patience. If farm equipment is causing a delay in traffic, the operator should move off the road at the nearest practical location and allow the traffic to pass.