Some area farmers started harvest recently, so it’s time for motorists to be on guard as they share rural roads with large pieces of agriculture equipment.

Coming upon a big piece of farm machinery with its unfamiliar lights and slow pace can be confusing for some drivers. Toss in the earlier sunsets and a bit of impatience, and things can add up to a tragic recipe.

Motorists who travel in rural areas this time of the year need to be especially alert. Limit distractions — especially from cell phones.

Stay within the speed limit and expect to reduce speed significantly when crossing paths with farm machinery.

Farmers can help by making sure all running lights work and adding reflective material to the machines, if possible.

Take into consideration the poor conditions on many rural roads and plan extra time to reach your destination.

Remember the drivers of the farm machinery aren’t always able to see you as well as you see them. Be patient. Be sure the coast is clear for a significant distance before trying to pass. And remember those big machines make wide turns, so give them plenty of space.

Don’t crowd. Leave yourself — and the farmer — room to maneuver should the need arise.

The Illinois Department of Transportation reports the state has recorded 736 traffic fatalities so far in 2020. Of those, 139 were on county or township roads — a total higher than the number of fatal crashes on the state’s interstate highways.

Each year it seems as though we hear a sad report about farm machinery being involved in traffic accidents. In October 2019, a car in Illinois’ Whiteside County tried to pass a tractor that was pulling a grain wagon along the highway. The car struck the wagon, according to WQAD. As a result of the crash, a 9-year-old girl died from her injuries.

No one wants to hear about similar incidents. Be alert. Slow down. And have patience when traveling rural roads during harvest season. Just taking a few simple steps will make travel safer for everyone.

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