HANCOCK COUNTY — Harvest season has begun and law enforcement officials are reminding drivers and farmers to keep an eye out for each other. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) encourages motorists to exercise caution and patience during October and November while sharing the road with large vehicles.

Officials from the Indiana State Police (ISP) want to remind all motorists the Fall harvest is an important time in the state and area and said in a release drivers need to know there will be an increase in agricultural equipment on the roads moving at slower speeds.

By law, farm equipment must have the nationally designated slow-moving vehicle sign — a red triangle-shaped reflector — to warn oncoming drivers their equipment is on the road. These vehicles often travel at speeds no higher than 25 mph, and the most common types drivers will encounter are combines and tractors pulling grain carts or wagons.

Area motorists can expect to see large combines, tractors pulling grain carts, and other agricultural equipment on the roadways. Officials are offering safety tips, which call for sound practical judgement, such as not tailgating farm vehicles, exercising caution when passing farm vehicles, and being patient while allowing plenty of time to get to your destination.

Officials from the ISP are partnering with the Indiana Department of Agriculture, and together say they can increase roadway safety by encouraging careful driving and taking the correct steps when safely navigating around large farm equipment on the roads this fall.

In 2020, the ISP reported 270 statewide crashes involving farm equipment and other motor vehicles which resulted in 95 injuries and two fatalities. In 2021, the ISP reported 296 crashes involving farm equipment and other motor vehicles which resulted in 83 injuries and three fatalities. While the number of statewide crashes in 2022 dropped to 284, the number of injuries increased to 84 and the number of fatalities increased to seven.

“The fall harvest season is certainly an exciting and busy time for farmers and motorists,” Don Lamb, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture said in a release. “By working together to practice alert driving, we can all make it home safely to our families each night.”

Farm equipment during harvest season could include tractors, combines, grain carts, grain wagons and large trucks hauling agricultural products. These vehicles are wide, sometimes taking up most of the road, and often travel at speeds no greater than 25 mph.

The best way to avoid issues, ISP officials say, is to be prepared for farm equipment on the roads and act accordingly.

“When you see farmers out working and moving from field to field, please be patient as they work to harvest their crops, which are needed to help feed our communities and the world,” Doug Carter, Indiana State Police Superintendent, said in a release. “Let’s all work together to help ensure everyone’s safety on our roadways.”

Farm equipment is wide, sometimes taking up most of the roadway. Drivers are encouraged to exercise caution when passing; be aware of alternate routes, and allow plenty of time to get to your destination.