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October law of the month

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Motorists will need to share the road with farm equipment and other slow-moving vehicles during harvest season

As farmers move from field to field during the fall harvest, drivers will need to share the road with slow-moving agricultural implements.

Drivers should slow down immediately whenever they see a florescent orange slow-moving vehicle emblem on the rear of a tractor or other piece of equipment. They also must be alert, focused and patient while trying to pass slow-moving vehicles.

“Before you attempt to pass a slow-moving vehicle, make sure you can clearly see what’s up ahead in front of that vehicle,” says Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald. “You legally may pass a slow-moving vehicle in a no passing zone if the slow-moving vehicle is traveling at less than one-half of the posted speed limit and you can pass it safely.”

To do their part in preventing crashes, farmers and other operators of slow-moving vehicles must follow safety regulations. According to state law, farm tractors, agricultural implements, animal-drawn vehicles or other vehicles that are normally operated at speeds below 25 miles-per-hour must display a “Slow Moving Vehicle” (SMV) sign on the left rear of the vehicle. In all cases—even when the vehicle is not a SMV—if it is operated during hours of darkness, the front and rear of the vehicle must have lights illuminated (white to the front, red to the rear). A citation for failure to display a SMV sign or a violation of the lighting requirement each costs $162.70.

Vehicles traveling slower than normal traffic must stay as far to the right-side of the roadway as practical. This does not mean slow vehicles must drive on the shoulder of the road although this is allowed if there is room to do so safely.

“Farmers and others using animal-drawn vehicles on a roadway have the same rights and responsibilities as operators of motor vehicles,” Superintendent Fitzgerald says. “You should be careful not to frighten the animals. Do not sound your horn or flash your lights near them, and give the animals plenty of room when passing.”

Superintendent Fitzgerald adds, “Caution, courtesy and common sense will go a long way to keeping our rural roadways safe during the harvest season.”

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SSI - Contacts Questions about the content of this page:
Steve L. Olson, steven.olson@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: September 30, 2014

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