The Missouri State Highway Patrol is reminding area drivers to expect heavier farm machinery traffic, especially on rural highways, as farmers harvest their crops this season.

Farmers and motorists are encouraged to share the road in a safe, courteous manner.

A press release from the MSHP says there were 158 traffic crashes in the state last year, involving farm equipment. Three people were killed as a result of those wrecks and 62 people were injured.

The Highway Patrol is offering some tips for safe travel during the harvest season:

MOTORISTS

- Stay alert for slow moving farm equipment.
- When you come up behind a tractor or other farm machinery, please slow down and be patient. Wait to pass until you have a clear view of the road ahead and there is no oncoming traffic. Never pass on a hill or curve.
- Collisions commonly occur when a motorist tries to pass a left-turning farm vehicle. A tractor that appears to be pulling to the right side of the road to let motorists pass, instead may be preparing to make a wide left turn. Watch the farmer’s hand and light signals closely.
- Pay close attention to farm equipment entering and leaving the highway from side roads and driveways.
- Special attention must be paid when traveling at dawn or dusk when the sun makes it difficult for drivers to see.

FARMERS

- Make sure any farm equipment being driven on Missouri roadways is properly marked with lights and a “slow-moving vehicle” emblem.
- Drive as far to the right as possible.
- If traffic accumulates behind you on a road where it is difficult to make a safe pass, you should pull off onto the side of the road in a level area, so the vehicles can pass.
- If possible, never travel on roadways at dawn or dusk when it is more difficult for drivers of other vehicles to see. However, Missouri law allows agricultural machinery and implements to be operated on state highways between the hours of sunset and sunrise for agricultural purposes provided such vehicles are equipped with the required lighting.
- Like other motor vehicles, most modern farm tractors have seat belts. Always use a seat belt when operating a tractor equipped with a roll-over protection structure.
- Often, all-terrain vehicles are used for agricultural purposes. ATVs being used for farming can only travel on highways during daylight hours and must be equipped with lights, a bicycle flag, and "slow-moving vehicle" emblem. The law requires anyone under the age of 18 to wear a safety helmet when operating an ATV; the Patrol, however, recommends all operators to wear a safety helmet regardless of age.


Farmers are also encouraged to review the regulations that pertain to farm vehicles and the transportation of goods. Some of the regulations include:

- If crossing state lines, farm vehicle drivers should be aware of the regulations for the jurisdictions in which they operate.
- Farm vehicles operated only within Missouri must display the farm name and its location if the vehicle bears a "local" license plate with the “F” tab.
- The driver of a farm vehicle must be at least 18 years of age if operating with Missouri; 21 years of age if crossing the state line.
- Those driving farm vehicles should familiarize themselves with the regulations regarding DOT physicals and commercial driver licenses when applicable.
- Permits must be obtained from MoDOT if you are traveling on an interstate and your vehicle or load is over the normal size and weight requirements.
- Any vehicle or combination of vehicles hauling grain or grain co-products during times of harvest may be as much as, but not exceeding, 10 percent over the maximum weight limitation allowable while operating on highways other than the interstate highway system.

Ryan Skaith