It is important to be on the lookout for farm equipment on the highway. As fields dry up after recent rainfall, there will be more equipment on highways, especially on rural roads.

As the population shifts from urban to rural areas, traffic is increasing on rural roads. This trend stresses the need for farm tractor operators and motorists to become more aware of collision hazards.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), approximately 50 tractor-operator fatalities occur each year from collisions with motor vehicles or trains. This does not include non-fatal injuries and fatalities of occupants of other vehicles involved in the collision.

A tractor operatorís best defense to avoid a collision with a motor vehicle on public roads is to make the tractor as visible as possible. This is critical because of the difference in travel speed.

For example, a car traveling 50 miles per hour approaches a tractor traveling 20 miles per hour in the same direction on the road. If the driver of the car first notices the tractor while still 400 feet behind it, the driver has less than 10 seconds to avoid a collision with the tractor. In this time, the driver of the car must recognize the danger, determine the speed the tractor is traveling, and decide what action to take.

Texas traffic law requires that farm tractors with a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour be equipped with a slow-moving-vehicle (SMV) emblem on the rear of the tractor. When towing a trailer or other equipment that blocks the SMV emblem, another SMV emblem must be attached at the rear of the towed equipment.

The emblem shall be an equilateral triangle at least 13.8 inches high (plus or minus 0.3 inches), and must be a fluorescent, red-orange material with a border of red retro-reflective material. The fluorescent material is visible in daylight and the reflective border shines when illuminated by headlights at night. The SMV emblem must be mounted at the rear, and as close to the center of the tractor or equipment as possible. It must be mounted with the point up; the lower edge of the emblem must be at least two feet and not more than 6 feet above the ground.

Lighting requirements also exist to warn other motorists of farm tractors. Tractors are required to have two forward-facing headlights and a red taillight that burns continuously. This taillight must be visible for 500 feet under normal circumstances and be mounted on the far left side of the tractor. All towed equipment must have two rear-mounted red

reflectors positioned at the extreme left and right.

Be careful and be safe.

For more information call the Erath County Extension Office at 254-965-1460.

Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent. His column appears weekly and online at yourstephenvilletx.com.