The hot summer nights have quickly given way to crisp fall evenings. With the change in seasons comes the fall harvest.

Tractors, combines and grain trucks will be joining us on our daily commutes and as we drive for errands and appointments. And much of this heavy equipment will not be moving at the usual speed of traffic.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture, the State Highway Administration and the Maryland Grain Producers Association remind those traveling on the Eastern Shore and throughout Maryland to keep an eye out for farmers on the road.

“Harvest season means lots of combines, tractors and other farm equipment moving about Maryland highways and roads — especially in our rural communities,”Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder wrote in a post on the MDA website. “Our top priority here is making sure everyone is able to get where they are going as safely as possible.”

Bartenfelder said the MDA has partnered with the SHA in urging motorists to use caution when approaching farm equipment on the road. He reminds motorists that farmers and farm equipment are legally allowed on roads as they move between farms and fields.

“Slow moving equipment will have an orange reflective sign, also known as a slow moving vehicle sign. Prepare to slow down and pass with care when safe to do so,” a news release from the the Maryland Grain Producers Association states.

According to the association’s release, eight seconds is all it takes to gain 100 yards — the length of a football field — when driving 30 mph more than a slow-moving vehicle like a combine.

“Some of these vehicles are large and hard to see around; wait for a safe passing zone before passing farm equipment,” the association reminds motorists.

The Maryland Grain Producers Association asks farmers to be sure to have the orange signs signifying slow-moving vehicles on equipment going 25 mph or less.

“When traveling on the road ensure your four-way flashers are on and use blinkers as appropriate, especially when making a left turn. When traveling at night, be sure to have running lights on,” the association asks farmers.

When a motorist encounters farm equipment on the road, the farmer understands the delay being caused. The farmer will likely pull off of the road at the first available safe location to allow motorists to pass. But do not assume that the farmer can immediately move aside, the SHA reminds drivers.

“Road shoulders may be soft, wet or steep, and this can cause a farm vehicle to tip, or the shoulder may be unable to support a heavy farm vehicle,” the SHA stated. “If a farmer has pulled off the road to allow you to pass, or if he or she cannot pull off the road and you feel you must pass, do so with caution.”

Motorists should not pass using the opposite lane unless they can clearly see that the path is clear.

Also be aware that farm equipment may need to go wide to take turns and may not be moving over to let a motorist pass.

As the fall harvest continues, we join Secretary Bartenfelder, the MDA, the SHA and the Maryland Grain Producers Association in urging motorists and farmers to be mindful and share our roads to keep everyone safe.

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