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Kyle Coffey performs maintenance on a combine near Ashmore. The harvest season presents road hazards in the form of slow-moving vehicles. 

Farmers say one of the biggest safety issues they face is sharing the road with other vehicles, especially at harvest time.

Large equipment, such as tractors and combines, can travel as slowly as 25 mph or less. Drivers are sometimes unaware of the speed limitations or frustrated by them, tailgating or passing the equipment in a hurry.

“Farmers will get over,” said Tim Stock, executive vice president of the Macon County Farm Bureau. “They know they are going slower than a vehicle is. They will slow down, get out of the way and still get a middle finger thrown at them.

“I don’t think the general public has a true understanding of what farmers are doing,” Stock continued. “They think farmers are an inconvenience to them when they are out on the roads.”

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In fact, he said, farmers don’t want to be the road either. They’d much rather spend that time in the fields.

In 2016, there were 424 crashes involving farm vehicles or equipment in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Randy Toohill, who farms 3,800 acres near Wapella, said it seems like the situation is getting worse. 

"It's gotten more and more dangerous," he said. "... People don’t realize your top speed is 25 mph, depending on what you’re driving."

IDOT has partnered in recent years with the state police and Illinois Farm Bureau on a program called "Caution, Slow Down, Share the Road," which encourages rural road safety.

In general, drivers should maintain a safe following distance and be patient, avoid passing farm equipment unless it is legal and safe to do so and avoid distractions such as texting while driving. 

"When people see farm equipment on the road, they need to slow down and take their time," Stock said. 

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Farmers are required to display the slow-moving vehicle emblem, a fluorescent orange triangle, on the rear of their equipment. The eye-catching symbol is meant to alert drivers so that they have plenty of time to slow down. 

Stock said some people use the emblem improperly to mark mailboxes, driveways or even fences, and it's important to be aware of the proper use. 

He said he hears more stories every year about incidents in which farmers encounter drivers who have little or no regard for the equipment. 

"Farmers are concerned," he said. "They do their part and the public needs to do their part to be safe around all farm equipment." 

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Contact Allison Petty at (217) 421-6986. Follow her on Twitter: @allison0512

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Regional Editor

Regional editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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