Sunday will bring the first day of autumn and, with it, fall harvest.
Harvesting crops is a busy time for farmers, and the presence of large, slow-moving vehicles on roadways - particularly in rural areas - requires added vigilance among motorists.
Statistics support the added emphasis on safety. Last year, Missouri recorded 173 crashes involving farm equipment. One driver was killed and 23 passengers were injured, including two aboard tractors.
"We encourage everyone traveling in Missouri's farming communities to stay alert and drive courteously," said Col. Ron Replogle, superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol. "Farmers and motorists can share the road. Please obey all traffic laws and remain vigilant, no matter what you're driving."
The patrol offers a number of safety suggestions for motorists, including:
• Be alert for slow moving farm equipment.
• Slow down and be patient when traveling behind a tractor or other farm machinery. Pass only when there is a clear view of the road ahead and there is no oncoming traffic.
• Avoid the common mistake of 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.
• Watch for farm equipment entering and leaving the highway from side roads and driveways.
• Special attention must be paid when traveling at dawn or dusk when the sun makes it difficult for drivers to see.
Agriculture plays a vital role in our state's - and our central region's - economy.
Farmers are not on the roadways to make travel inconvenient for motorists. They are there to do a job - to harvest a food supply within the constraints of time and weather.
In short, they are working to put food on your table.
Show them some patience and respect, drive safely and share the road.