Beware of traffic behind you

Make sure you have your SMV sign on your equipment when on the road

Like many of you that live in rural areas I get behind Slow Moving Vehicles often, especially this time of year. Tractors and other farm machinery are busy getting to and from the fields to plant or harvest. We all get in a hurry, but let’s be safe and make sure we all get to our destination safe.

When I returned to the farm decades ago, I heard a story of a local farmer having a school bus behind him as he was moving a piece of tillage equipment down the road. He slowed down and waved the bus by, unfortunately the school bus hung the piece of farm equipment. I was “preached” a very good lesson to remember at the time. Always be courteous when on the road with farm equipment. Always get over when you can and keep tabs of the traffic behind you.  When you have folks behind you, get as far off the road as you can to allow them to pass. If they pass it’s their decision, don’t take on the responsibility of waving them by, there is a question of liability.

In the situation described above the Code of Virginia § 46.2-842. Driver to give way to overtaking vehicle. states, “… Any over-width, or slow-moving vehicle as defined by § 46.2-1081 (read Slow Moving Vehicles) shall be removed from the roadway at the nearest suitable location when necessary to allow traffic to pass.”

A few years ago, during the General Assembly I was approached about whether or not we wanted traffic to be able to pass farm machinery on a double line. At first it sounds like a good idea until you think about who is in the better position to decide when it is safe to pass. If the piece of machinery was the size of a passenger vehicle it might be possible for the driver wishing to pass to make the call and pass when they feel it is safe. But most of our farm equipment is much larger than a car these days, those behind a combine or load of hay cannot see around it to make that call. Considering the size of farm equipment today, the operator of the farm machinery is in the “driver’s seat” to better decide when it is safe to pull off the road to allow traffic to pass. Just to be clear, it is still against the law to pass a Slow Moving Vehicle on a double line.

This might be a good time to remind everyone to have that orange triangle Slow Moving Vehicle sign on the back of the equipment. To view the complete law on that in Virginia you can look at Virginia Code § 46.2-1081. Slow-moving vehicle emblems.It may be a small thing, but it has a big impact and can save lives, including yours. Don’t forget those flashing lights too!

Bottomline, be careful out there when you are driving farm machinery on the roadways. We are all sharing the road, farmers are driving very expensive, very large equipment in most cases, we are also very vulnerable. Remember to let folks pass when you are able to get over far enough to allow traffic to pass. Get over and let them decide if they wish to take the opportunity.

Dana Fisher, Chair of Virginia Farm Bureau Safety Committee has placed a lot of resources on farm safety on our website. You can check those out at Remember you can also check out other useful resources on our Virginia Farm Bureau Resources page at If there is something you still have questions about, reach out to me at the Virginia Farm Bureau headquarters or via your County Farm Bureau.

Andrew W. Smith, Associate Director

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