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Editor's Note: Share the road – watch out for tractors

Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 10:52 a.m. CDT

I grew up in a little farm town, so one of the surest signs that spring had truly arrived was getting stuck driving behind a tractor.

Guess what? Spring has really and truly arrived.

Planting season is kicking in a little later than the boom year of 2012, but not quite as late as last year, according to some area farmers. With today’s advanced technologies in farm equipment, even if farmers do get a late start, it doesn’t take them long to make up the difference.

Fertilizer and herbicide started going on the fields earlier this month. A few warm, dry days in a row is all it will take to get a significant amount of planting done.

Over the next few weeks, it will seem like farm equipment is everywhere, at least out in our rural areas. And since you can’t really get from one place to another around these parts without going through a rural area, well – chances are you’re going to spend some time driving behind a tractor.farm

I like seeing the tractors out in the fields; it’s a sort of comforting throwback to my childhood, and is one of those associations that makes me feel it really is safe to pack away the sweaters and boots til next year.

But like most people, I am less enthused to see those tractors when they’re on the road in front of me. And I’m already late.

But let me give you some advice. If you’re in that situation, don’t get all upset. Don’t curse out the farmer (it’s not his/her fault; the tractor has to get to the field somehow). And please, don’t do anything stupid like tailgate or swerve out into the next lane to pass quickly.

From 2008 through 2012, IDOT reported 29 Illinois residents died in highway accidents involving farm machinery. By last year’s data, crashes involving large equipment like tractors and combines were the second leading cause of death on rural roads in the state.

Most of the time, the person driving the tractor will pull as far to the right as they safely can. Realize there’s only so far they can go. Most farm machinery rollovers occur in ditches and embankments; that machine is high and heavy, and you just can’t pitch it at too much of an angle.

So be patient this spring. Slow down. Realize that the equipment way down the road is moving slowly, and you will close the gap very quickly. Pass carefully, and only when and where it’s safe to do so – not on a blind hill or curve, and not in a no-passing zone.

And please pay attention – don’t be caught off-guard by unexpected vehicles sharing the road with you. That applies not only to tractors but also to bicycles and motorcycles.

Spring and planting season are supposed to be a time of renewal, a time to celebrate life. Let’s keep it that way.

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