As you travel the nation’s roads, you may occasionally find yourself sharing the road with slow-moving vehicles (SMVs), such as tractors; self-propelled farm equipment; road construction and maintenance machinery; and animal-powered vehicles. You can help avoid potentially dangerous encounters with SMVs by following these driving tips:
• Watch out. Keep your eyes open for the fluorescent red and orange “slow-moving vehicle” placard on the rear of SMVs. Be on the lookout for the yellow and black warning sign with the symbol of a farmer driving a tractor, which indicates farm machinery crossings ahead. Yet keep in mind that farm vehicles could enter the roadway from unmarked access drives.
• Slow down and keep a safe distance. Begin braking as soon as you see an SMV and keep a safe distance – at least 4-6 seconds in good weather and 6-10 seconds in poor conditions. Don’t be fooled by the SMV’s speed. While you may expect them to be moving slowly, they are often moving much faster than anticipated.
• Turn on your lights. SMV operators may have poor visibility due to loads and equipment in tow. Also, most SMVs are very loud…don’t assume that the driver knows you’re there. Use your headlights to help see and be seen.
• Observe road and weather conditions. SMV operators may adjust positions suddenly in reaction to conditions such as debris, potholes, gravel, puddles or pavement seams. Be ready to react.
• Watch for turns. Don’t assume that an SMV operator who pulls the vehicle to the right side of the road is turning right or letting you pass. They may be swinging wide to execute a left-hand turn. Before passing, look for driveways, gates, roads or fields where the vehicle might be entering. In addition, check for hand gestures or lights signaling a turn. However, some SMV operators may be distracted by oncoming traffic and may not indicate their intention to turn. Stay alert.
• Pass carefully only when it is safe and legal to do so. Follow the same rules that would apply to other vehicles: never pass on curves or hills, when nearing intersections, or at railroad crossings, bridges or tunnels. Don’t assume the SMV driver can move aside to let you pass. Roadway shoulders may be too soft, wet or steep. If they do pull over, watch for obstacles (i.e., mailboxes, bridges, road signs) that may cause the operator to maneuver back toward the center of the road. When passing, give them ample space as some equipment is extra wide. Also, pay particular attention to cranes, booms, and other implements that extend beyond or outside the trailer. Avoid roaring by. Air turbulence from a speeding vehicle can cause equipment to sway and become unsteady.
• Use extra caution around animals. Be aware that animal-powered vehicles may make unanticipated movements. Give them plenty of room and NEVER use your horn as it may scare the animals. It’s easy to get impatient behind an SMV, but they have the same right to use public roads as other vehicles. Set an example by driving courteously, giving them space and slowing down!