One of the most important things you can do to be safe on rural roads is to slow down. Keep your speed at or below the posted limits. If you’re driving in the country and don’t see a posted speed limit sign, remember that the maximum legal speed on most open non-freeway and non-interstate highways is 55 miles per hour. Speed limits are often posted lower because of road conditions, construction, curves, or hills.
Watch out for farm machinery when driving in the country. Remember that combines, tractors, and the implements they’re pulling are usually traveling less than 25 miles per hour.
“Keep an eye out for the red and orange fluorescent ‘slow moving vehicle’ emblem and adjust your speed accordingly. If you need to pass a farmer pulling his equipment on the highway, try to make visual contact if possible. Wait until the machinery operator knows you’re there. Many farm equipment operators will pull their machine over where there is a safe area. However, that’s not always possible, especially if the edge of the roadway is steep or without a shoulder.”
If you’re a farmer, make your implements as visible as possible, says Aherin. State laws regarding machinery lighting and marking require at minimum a SMV emblem at all times. If moving at night equipment must have two red taillights mounted as far right and left as practical, two white headlights visible for at least 1,000 feet to the front and at least one flashing amber light. It is also recommended for enhanced visibility to have an amber flashing light mounted on the far right and left of tractors and implements that is visible to both the front and rear. Recent research has shown that farm equipment visibility can be greatly improved by placing retro-reflective tape at the extremities on all sides of farm implements. A set of reflective material specifically assembled for farm equipment is called the FARM kit and is available from Farm Bureau offices; many farm equipment and chemical dealers in Illinois.
Source: Robert Aherin, Extension Specialist, Safety, University of Illinois