Ahhh, September! The time of year with back-to-school, the beginning of fall and as anyone who lives in a rural community knows…harvest season! Along with beautiful fall colours and fresh-picked produce, harvest season in Ontario also means an influx of large, slow-moving farming vehicles on the roads. 

Whether you live on the family farm or you’re venturing out to the country for a day trip, here are some safety tips for driving on rural roads during harvest season to keep everyone safe and sound:

Be Patient

Farm vehicles weren’t built for speed, let alone driving on public roads. In fact, all vehicles displaying a Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign are forbidden from driving above 40 km/h. 

What does that mean? Be patient. Their goal isn’t to ruin your day by slowing you down; it’s to ensure everybody’s safety while they do the important task of feeding our communities. Driving aggressively or becoming impatient only puts yourself and the person operating the farming equipment at risk.

If you’re a farmer taking your equipment out on the road, make sure you have the SMV sign centred on the back of your vehicle and that it’s clearly visible from 150 metres away. 

Only Pass If It’s Safe to Do So

That tractor isn’t going to go any faster, so it may make sense for you to pass it if you want to get on your way a little quicker. 

Before you go to pass the vehicle, make sure you have a clear view of the road ahead and that the lines on the road signify you are permitted to pass. If that’s the case, you can move into the opposing lane to advance past the farm vehicle. 

Make sure you are fully in the other lane, do not expect them to move onto the shoulder to give you more space. If it’s a particularly large vehicle that crosses over the centre line, be prepared to drive with part of your car on the shoulder to safely pass. Whatever you do, don’t drive too close as the driver may not be able to see you or you may hit parts of the equipment that are sticking out.

Give plenty of space before pulling back into the proper lane, do not cut them off or do any erratic manoeuvers that could cause them to brake suddenly or lose control of the vehicle.

If you’re not 100% confident that you can pass safely then do not pass.

Watch the video below from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to watch how it’s done!

Go Slow Around Turns and Curves

Drive cautiously around turns and curves during harvest season; if you go too fast you may suddenly find yourself behind a slow-moving farm vehicle without enough time to stop! A little bit of precaution goes a long way in protecting everybody out on our rural roads at this time of year.

Be Prepared to Share Your Lane

Just like how farming equipment wasn’t built to keep up with the regular speed limits on our roads, some of them weren’t built to stay within the lines either! If you see a wide farming vehicle approaching ahead, be prepared to move over within your lane if their vehicle takes up part of your lane as well.

You may wonder why they don’t just use the shoulder instead. While it’s not illegal for them to do so, in many cases it’s simply unsafe. When the shoulder is gravel and/or lower than the road, it can make it difficult for the driver to control the vehicle. Given the weight of some farming equipment, the shoulder may not be able to support the weight of the equipment which could lead to serious damage and/or injury.

Park Safely When Stopping At a Roadside Stand

Is there anything more delicious than sweet corn and other farm-fresh goods picked up from a roadside stand on your way home? 

If you choose to pull over to make a purchase, you need to do so as safely as possible. Give yourself plenty of time to slow down and alert other drivers that you’re pulling over. Pull your vehicle onto the shoulder and as far off the road as possible so you’re not obstructing traffic. Children and other passengers should exit on the side of the vehicle opposite to the road.

Be careful when pulling back onto the road; make sure the coast is clear, accelerate slowly on gravel shoulders and take care when driving from the shoulder back onto the road.

We’d be lying if we said that getting stuck behind a slow-moving tractor was an enjoyable experience. At the end of the day, nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of every vehicle on the road, even if it means we’re a few minutes late to our next destination. You’ll get there eventually!

Let’s all do our part to keep our roads safe this fall so we can all make it home safe and sound to enjoy our farmers’ hard work at the dinner table. Happy harvest season from Cayuga Mutual Insurance!