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Published April 28, 2009, 10:20 PM

Caution: Slow-moving farm implement ahead

What Minnesota Department of Transportation officials call "rural rush hour" has descended upon Goodhue County.

By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle

What Minnesota Department of Transportation officials call "rural rush hour" has descended upon Goodhue County.

It's the time of year - typically during planting and harvest seasons - when farm vehicles are more common on rural roads.

Goodhue County had the fourth highest number of farm vehicle crashes from 1987 to 2007, according to information from MnDOT. Last year's crash statistics have not been released.

During that 20-year span, the county saw 115 farm vehicle crashes. Stearns County led the way with 150, according to MnDOT.

Data does not indicate in what capacity the farm vehicles are involved in the crashes or what vehicle is at fault.

Officials note that both farmers and other drivers need to pay attention.

"Drivers really need to continue to be observant and expect something to be ahead of them even if they can't see it, said Maj. Lyle Lorenson or the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office.

Historically, crashes involving farm vehicles increase in September, October and November. But this time of year is also busy as farmers begin preparing their fields and planting crops.

Three people were already killed in April in Olmsted County when the vehicle they were riding in struck a tractor on a rural road and burst into flames.

Officials say farm vehicles' speed and size make them targets for crashes and suggest giving the equipment extra space.

Extreme caution should also be exercised when passing farm vehicles, especially on rural and two-lane roads where they most often travel.

"The farm equipment now is so big it's really not designed to fit on our road ways," Lorenson said. "And people just don't realize the size and the space it takes up on the road."

Many farm vehicles operate at night as well, so Lorenson said it is key to pay attention at all hours.

"You're on top of the tractors and other implements so quickly you don't always have time to react," he said.

In addition to reminding the public to be more aware, Lorenson said sheriff's deputies have worked to remind farmers to have proper markings and lighting on the equipment.

"We try to help farmers out too," he said.

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