Accidents involving farm vehicles in Michigan are up from last year as farmers wrap up their duties for the harvest season, officials said.
State police reported 168 accidents involving agricultural vehicles as of October 28. During the same period in 2021, there were approximately 150 accidents. In 2021, there were 195 traffic accidents involving agricultural equipment and 5 fatalities.
Agricultural vehicles refer to vehicles used to lift or carry agricultural production tools. They include tractors, trailers, combines, plows and wagons.
According to the state police report for 2021, there were 23 accidents involving farm vehicles in November, more than any other month.Accidents are more likely to happen between 12pm and 5pm
“They need to move the equipment up and down the countryside to get from farm to field and field to market,” said Ernie Birchmeier, a livestock and dairy specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau.
Ottawa and Ingham counties each had nine farm equipment-related accidents last year, the most of any county in the state. There were eight accidents each in Calhoun and Allegan counties. Bay, Clinton and Genesee counties each have seven.
“In those rural areas where there are a lot of farms and agriculture, people should expect to have farm equipment on the roads,” said Michigan State Police Lt. Michelle Robinson.
Motorists didn’t pay attention when they saw the tractor coming onto the road, said Robinson, the public information officer for MSP Region 6, which includes Ottawa, Kent and Muskegon counties.
So far, 20 agricultural vehicle traffic accidents have occurred in Blanche County, located in the south-central part of the state, the county with the most accidents among counties this year.
Most farm vehicles have a top speed of 25 mph. Farm Bureau legislative adviser Andrew Vermeesch said the law requires operators to have a slow-moving vehicle sign on their equipment while on the road.
“That slow-moving vehicle sign does indicate to motorists that the vehicle is moving slower than normal and (they) need to proceed with caution,” Vermeesch said.
Orange triangle signs are sometimes misused to mark driveways or mailboxes, but residents can use other methods to mark their property, he said.
Vermeesch said the slow-moving vehicle sign should only be used on slow-moving vehicles. “These actions are not only illegal, but have a numbing effect on drivers,” he said.
“Safety is always the number one priority for all motorists on the road. This includes drivers and farmers when carrying equipment on the road,” Vermeesch said.
Robinson said state troopers in District 6 have launched a social media campaign warning drivers to slow down if they see farm vehicles on the road, especially during harvest time.
Janelle James writes for the Capital News Agency and is a senior with a double major in journalism and political science at Michigan State University.