Farmers ask drivers to be patient during spring planting season

A tractor pulling a planter drives on a road with a car following closely behind it.
Ryan Brown, president of Cumberland County Farm Bureau, drives a tractor and planter on a Pennsylvania road. (Submitted photo)

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. —  Farmers are asking motorists to be a little more patient and cautious as they drive on back roads through the spring.

Farm equipment is moving around rural roads as farmers get back to field work, in preparation for planting and harvesting forages.

“Take a little extra time that way everybody can get home safe and sound,” said Jason Nailor, a dairy farmer in Cumberland County.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau held a safety awareness event April 18, at a farm in Cumberland County, to recognize Rural Roads Safety Week, April 16-23. Not far from where the press conference was held, a car crashed into Nailor, of J&S Dairy, as he was driving a tractor between farms.

“I was making a left hand turn into one of our farms and a vehicle passed me on the left,” he said. “I do have photographs of the tractor. There was not much left of it”

Fortunately, he walked away from that crash nine years ago, but it was a preventable incident. The driver was distracted by their cell phone, Nailor said.

According to preliminary Pennsylvania Department of Transportation data, there were 112 crashes involving farm equipment last year, resulting in seven deaths, said Cheryl Moon-Siriani, executive deputy director for PennDOT. According to national data, driver behavior is a factor in more than 90% of the crashes, she said.

Overall there were 22,886 crashes on rural Pennsylvania roads in 2022, resulting in 429 fatalities, she said. More than half of Pennsylvania’s roads, about 72,000 miles of roadway, are classified as rural.

What farms need to know

Farm equipment can be legally operated on roadways, even at night, as long as they have proper lighting and safety measures in place. All farm equipment traveling at speeds less than 25 miles per hour is required by law to have a slow-moving vehicle emblem, an orange triangle with a red outline, on the back of their equipment.

Other guidance from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau includes, turn on lights on equipment, but turn off rear spotlights; avoid the highway during rush hours and bad weather; use pilot cars if you are going a considerable distance; install mirrors if you can to be aware of motorists around you.

What drivers need to know

Adam Reed, communications director with Pennsylvania State Police, gave some tips and reminded motorists of the rules of the road. When drivers encounter equipment or a horse-drawn vehicle with a slow-moving vehicle emblem, they need to take care in passing.

“You are permitted to cross the double yellow line to pass a designated slow moving vehicle only if the roadway is clear and the roadway is now marked as a no passing area,” Reed said.

Slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings can prevent a lot of crashes. Speeding and distracted driving are primary causes of car crashes in Pennsylvania.

Drivers should watch for turn signals on slow moving vehicles and or pay attention to hand signals. Reed said he’s investigated several crashes like the one Nailor was in, where the driver mistook the tractor pulling off to the right side of the road as an indication for the driver to pass by on the left, “when in reality [the tractor] was attempting to make a wide left turn.”

“I encourage all drivers to focus on what is ahead of and around you on the roadway and know what to do if you encounter farm machinery,” he said.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be reached at or 724-201-1544.)


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Rachel is Farm and Dairy's editor and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County, where she co-manages the family farm raising beef cattle and sheep with her husband and in-laws. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts. She can be reached at or 724-201-1544.



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