Let's all share the road this growing season
All drivers — whether of passenger vehicles or farm equipment — need to be cautious and share the road this growing season.
Planting season is well upon us, even here in the previously cold, snowy reaches of central North Dakota. Even before the snow was completely melted, tractors were out in the fields.
And so, for those of us who regularly traverse country roads, the season of hyper caution also is upon us.
We regularly hear reminders for drivers to be considerate of farm equipment. Those are important reminders, and we all need to heed them. Tractors — even modern ones — aren't fast, and drivers should be patient and should only pass when it is safe to do so. Don't tailgate, and remember that you might be hard to see from the cab of a tractor, especially when there are large implements attached.
But I'm going to throw out a request to the operators of large equipment: Please remember that other drivers are using the roads, too.
Your tractors, trucks, combines and you need to get down the road safely and efficiently. All too often, on both the roads I live on as well as ones I drive for work or personal purposes, I've seen farm equipment operators who are more concerned with getting to their fields than sharing the road with others.
If you're driving a vehicle that takes up more than your half of the road, please make sure you're paying attention at all times. If you're messing with the radio or playing on a phone — and before anyone blames the youngsters, it's absolutely not just a "teenager" thing — you might not see that car coming from the opposite direction that is ending up in the ditch to avoid you. (For that matter, we all need to make sure we're paying attention at all times.)
Follow all laws. That might mean marking your equipment as over width, using a guide car in front and/or behind you so that others have warning of what's coming, tying things down that could come off a trailer, not moving equipment in the dark, or — and this is a big pet peeve of mine — removing oversized equipment like combine headers before you head down the road. Yes, any of those things might take time. But isn't it better for everyone if you take the time and do it properly and keep everyone safe?
Rural roads, both paved and gravel, have a lot of dangers. They're usually not overly wide and sometimes don't have much, if anything, for shoulders. They might not be well maintained. And twists, turns, hills and dips are pretty common.
We all want — and deserve — to use our public roads and get where we need to go in as little time as safely possible. And to make that a reality for everyone, let's all look out for each other. If it takes me 10 more minutes to get to town in my car, then that's the way it's going to be. And if it takes you 10 more minutes to get to your next field, that's also the way it's going to be. We have a shared responsibility to do what's right, even when it's not convenient.
The growing season can involve a lot of stressful situations. Let's not add crashes that didn't have to happen to the list.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-595-0425.