COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Safety remains the key message for motorists sharing the roads with farm machinery, despite a new Ohio law that now allows farmers to drive their tractors, or other equipment, faster.
Governor Ted Strickland recently signed House Bill 9, which increases the speed allowed for farm machinery that can go faster than 25 mph, as designated by the manufacturer. High-speed tractors, which benefit most from the bill, can travel upwards of 40 mph.
Farm equipment that meets this requirement must display a slow moving vehicle emblem along with a speed identification symbol indicating the machinery's top speed. In the past, 25 mph was the top speed allowed for farm machinery on Ohio roads, and a slow-moving vehicle emblem was required to caution motorists.
Dee Jepsen, Ohio State University Extension's state safety leader, said that with the new law in effect, new outreach efforts are required to educate both farmers and motorists of what the new law means to them.
For motorists, it still means exercising caution.
"We continue to educate motorists on what it means when they see a slow moving vehicle sign. Now they need to learn to look for the speed identification symbol when traveling the roads with farm machinery," said Jepsen. "The new law doesn't change the message of safety. The emblems indicate that they are still dealing with a piece of agricultural equipment and it's still moving slower than an automobile, so exercising safety is still a priority."
For farmers, it means an added responsibility of making sure their equipment meets the law's requirements.
In addition to the added emblems on qualified farm equipment, the new law also limits speeds on machinery with towed equipment, and requires a valid driver's or commercial driver's license when operating tractors that can go faster than 25 mph.
"With those requirements, the bill does build in safety precautions," said Jepsen.
Jepsen will be at Ohio State University's Farm Science Review Sept. 18-20 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio, to help build awareness of the new law. A properly marked high-speed tractor will be on display near the safety tent in Alumni Park, as well as an exhibit outlining the details of the new bill.
Ohio is the first state in the nation to pass such a law. The state is noted as a first adopter of many ag-related policies, due to its mix of agriculture and heavy urbanization. Ohio is credited for developing and implementing the slow moving vehicle sign and was the first to adopt an extremity lighting law for multi-wheeled tractors.
Farm Science Review is sponsored by Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or participating agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept 18-19 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 20. For more information, log on to http://fsr.osu.edu.