Spring is here and the planting season is underway throughout much of Maryland.

That means motorists traveling Maryland highways and rural byways may find themselves sharing the road with the large, slow-moving farm equipment from one of the state’s 12,429 farms.

Planting season usually extends from early April through May.

“It is important that Marylanders are aware that they may encounter large farm vehicles on their routes this time of year,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “Planting season is an extremely busy and important time for Maryland farmers who are moving about preparing their fields for this season’s crops.”

Farmers are legally allowed to operate farm equipment on public roadways and there are times when farm vehicles must operate on highways to move between farm and field.

“Motorists who approach farm equipment should slow down, be patient, and when safe, pass with caution. Doing so ensures we all get to where we need to go,” Bartenfelder said.

Farming equipment is very large, and likely will share travel lanes while working along farmland adjacent to roads. Maryland is home to about two million acres of farmland.

A recent study by the Maryland Soybean Board found that from 2015-2018 a total of 234 car crashes involved farm vehicles or equipment, with a majority of them occurring between May and October on county and state roads due to lack of attention.

If you encounter farm equipment, a farmer understands that your trip is being delayed, so he or she will pull off of the road at the first available safe location to allow you to pass.

Do not assume that the farmer can immediately move aside. 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 following tips will help ensure the safety of motorists, passengers and operators of slow-moving equipment:

• If you see the slow-moving vehicle emblem — a neon orange triangle sign — on a piece of equipment, slow down and increase your distance.

• 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.

• Be watchful of vehicles behind you that may also try to pass.

• If you must enter the oncoming lane of traffic, do not pass unless you can see clearly ahead of both you and the vehicle you will pass.

• If there are any curves or hills ahead that may block your view or the view of oncoming vehicles, do not pass.

• Do not pass if you are in a designated “No Passing Zone” or within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad grade crossing, bridge, elevation structure or tunnel.

• Do not assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right or is letting you pass. Due to the size of some farm implements, the farmer must execute wide left-hand turns. If you are unsure, check the operator’s hand signals and check the left side of the road for gates, driveways or any place a farm vehicle may turn.

With a few precautions, motorists and farmers can share the road safely.

The editorial originally appeared in the April 7 issue of The Star Democrat.

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