From that first sip of a pumpkin spice latte to visiting a local pumpkin patch or hiking among the changing leaves—everyone has their own way of welcoming the fall season.

However, as you travel to and from your favorite autumn activities, you may encounter large agricultural equipment on the road as farmers begin their harvest. It’s a scene that can make everyone nervous. But with caution, you can get to your destination and farmers can get to their next field safely.

It only takes five seconds to close the gap between a tractor and a road vehicle going 55 mph on the highway. Because of this, Iowa State University recommends travelers stay alert when approaching hills and slowing down as soon as you see an agricultural vehicle on the road.  

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, 181 accidents occurred in Iowa between road vehicles and farm equipment in 2021. While rear-end crashes are the number two most common type of accident nationally—the most common is left-hand turn collisions.

To enter a field on the opposite side of the road, farmers will often swing to the right to prepare for a wide turn. Sometimes this is misinterpreted by road vehicles as an opportunity to get around farm equipment.

Before attempting a pass, look to see if a tractor or combine may be turning. And never try to pass in a no passing zone. (Honestly, that should go unsaid, but I have personally had close calls on some rural roads with people doing exactly that.)

We all have places we want to be, and we want to get there in a reasonable amount of time. So, it can feel irritating when we get stuck behind slow vehicles. However, research shows following a tractor for two miles is the same amount of time as waiting for two stoplights in town.

I think our friends and family will be more grateful we made it there safely than being there a few minutes later than expected. This fall, it will be each of our responsibilities—farmers and nonfarmers alike—to keep everyone safe on the road. Stay patient, stay alert and give each other friendly waves. Together, we will reach our destinations and make it home at night to our loved ones.

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