The arrival of autumn brings increased danger as motorists share the roadways with fall harvesting equipment.
This is the time of year when motorists in rural areas may crest a hill or negotiate a curve and encounter slow-moving farm equipment.
The danger is not imaginary. Last year, three drivers died and 17 were injured in 231 Missouri crashes involving farm equipment. In addition, 10 farm tractor passengers were injured.
"We encourage everyone, whether they live in or will be traveling through a farming community, to stay alert and drive courteously," said Col. Ron Replogle, superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol.
During the harvest season, the patrol reminds motorists to:
• Remain alert for slow-moving farm equipment.
• Slow down and be patient when following slow-moving equipment. Wait to pass until you have a clear view of the road ahead and there is no oncoming traffic. Also, never pass on a hill or curve.
• Avoid misinterpreting and attempting to pass a left-turning farm vehicle. A tractor that appears to be pulling to the right side of the road to let motorists pass, instead may be preparing to make a wide left turn. Watch the farmer's hand and light signals closely.
• Pay close attention to farm equipment entering and leaving the highway from side roads and driveways.
• Be vigilant when traveling at dawn or dusk when the sun makes it difficult for drivers to see.
The patrol also advises that the summer drought has made the need to feed cattle hay, silage and grain come much earlier this year, increasing the demand.
Area farmers have a job to do that sometimes requires them to travel the roadways. Their intention is not to frustrate or inconvenience motorists.
Awareness and patience during the harvest season will help make the roadways safe for farmers and motorists alike.