Harvest season is here and that means the country roads surrounding Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon will see a flurry of activity as farmers start to reap their crops, which can pose some hazards for motorists.
“Drivers are aware the agricultural industry is very active from August through October,” said California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Olsen. “Knowing this, motorists need to plan ahead and leave a little earlier than normal. Time management is everything. Be patient when coming upon a slower-moving farm vehicle.”
Time management is essential when slow moving farm vehicles like tractors, harvest and silage trucks and farm equipment start having to share the same two-lane country roads with other motorists.
“Drivers need to plan ahead and leave a little earlier than normal,” Olsen reiterated. “Drivers who are running late tend to make riskier decisions when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.”
As the harvest begins, especially of almonds, more dust will be in the air and can reduce visibility.
“Drivers should never slam on their brakes when they encounter these visibility issues,” Olsen said. “Drivers should utilize a high visual horizon, looking well down the road to predict such plumes of dirt. This will allow motorists to lower their speed to a safe speed well before visibility becomes jeopardized.”
Olsen said it is important for drivers to be mindful of the speed limit on rural roads and when double lines are present.
“The maximum speed limit on a two-lane undivided highway is 55 miles per hour,” Olsen said. “Maximum speed limits do not apply when visibility is diminished. Drivers must then lower their speed. This is the case for inclement weather, too — fog, rain, snow, etc.
Overall, Olsen said playing it safe is always the right move.
“Drivers are not allowed to pass another vehicle over a set of double yellow lines,” the CHP officer continued. “This may be frustrating for certain motorists who are behind a slower-moving vehicle. Remember, double yellow lines are placed on certain sections of roadways for a reason.”
Here are some additional tips to help keep everyone safe on the local roadways during harvest.
Give farm equipment on the road plenty of room to operate. Drivers of the equipment may need to make wider than usual and may take up more of the roadway.
Don’t suddenly slow down in front of a farm vehicle, especially those towing equipment. The heavy machinery can make quick stops nearly impossible.
Expect farm vehicles to be traveling at five to 15 miles per hour.
Watch for hand signals from the equipment driver on when it’s safe to pass or if they are planning to turn into a field or orchard.