State Trooper Paul Gardner, with the Fort Dodge Patrol office, says everyone behind the wheel needs to stay alert. “We’re encouraging motorists to make sure they’re paying attention to their surroundings,” Gardner says. “Drive defensively. Make sure you’re obeying the speed limit, wearing your seat belt, keep the phone down, and minimize distractions. You might be on a side road, think you’re in the clear and all of a sudden a tractor may pull out in front of you, that tractor may not see you and that can cause a collision.”
Anyone driving tractors combines and other big implements on the road needs to take responsibility, too.
“With the farmers, we tell them to make sure if they’re out on the highway, that they are visible, that they have a slow-moving vehicle sign if they’re traveling less than 35 miles per hour,” Gardner says, “and if they’re out at night, make sure they also have flashing amber lights.”
The trooper says he always strives to dispel a myth about the rules for passing slow-moving vehicles. “Many people who are out on the highways think they can pass a tractor just anywhere,” Gardner says. “They have to be mindful they can’t be left of center in a no-passing zone. If you’re following a tractor in a no-passing zone, please be patient. Wait for that no passing zone to be complete and then you can go out passing as long as it’s safe to do so.”
Many rural intersections have no stop or yield signs for any direction of travel and some people will foolishly barrel on through, which he says is very dangerous, especially with the corn at full height. “If you come up to an uncontrolled intersection, just make sure you’re slowing down at every crossroad and that there’s nobody coming,” Gardner says. “With the corn up, you may not see the dust coming.”
Rear-end collisions with farm vehicles are common. If a car is moving along at 55 miles-an-hour and approaches a tractor doing 15, the distance gap between the two vanishes in about five seconds, precious little time to react.
(Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City contributed to this report.)