Rural road safety supports farmers

June 27, 2023

Rural road safety: it’s a bit of a tongue twister, but it’s so important to understand. 

Every year around May, June and July, the harvest season livens up in Delaware. Farmers markets reopen, community members want to find fun activities outside and farmers work from dawn to dusk gathering the products they worked so hard on up until that point. In Sussex County, I would say all of that activity on our roads is certainly amplified by tourism traffic. 

At the end of the day, everybody, including farmers, just wants to arrive at their destination safely. That’s why I’m asking you to brush up your rural road safety skills. 

I operate Shepherd’s Hope Farms in Seaford, where we farm grains, hay and sheep. Like many farmers, occasionally someone from our farm has to take equipment onto public roads. I am asking for your support in keeping us all safe while we travel. 

Farmers have an obligation to properly identify their farming vehicles. This includes affixing Slow-Moving Vehicle emblems to any vehicle that typically travels 25 mph or slower. 

The SMV emblem is an orange triangular sign with a red border and should be found on the back of SMVs so motorists can view it easily. At night, these emblems show a glowing red triangle, making it easier for passersby to notice the safety concern. 

We need you to learn to recognize these emblems, and give extra space and time when you come up on a farming vehicle. Slow down. Give more than the traditional two seconds of space between vehicles. Keep in mind that it might be harder for the farmer to see you as your vehicle could be in a blind spot, especially if you’re traveling close to the SMV. The safest thing for you to do is to assume the farmer cannot see you at all.

Remember that our larger vehicles will probably take wide turns. Some might even seem to pull off on the right side of the road so they can make that wider left turn. It’s important to not pass an SMV too quickly because of this – or don’t pass them at all. I know it takes longer to travel on the road with farming equipment ahead of you, but you have to understand the risks with various traveling practices. If you want to pull over so the SMV can pass you, please remember not to pull over next to a mailbox, utility pole, etc. This creates an additional hazard and might even make it so the farmer cannot pass you at all. 

Keep local driving laws in mind, as well. For example, it is illegal to use handheld devices while driving in Delaware. Put your phone down and concentrate on your travels. It could save not just your life, but also the lives of your passengers and the farmers too. 

Ultimately, it’s better to arrive at your destination safely, even if it’s a few minutes late, than to risk getting into an accident with a vehicle that is much larger than your own. You, your passengers and the farmer are all worth the extra time and space. 

Keeping everyone safe on the road is a group effort. For more information on rural road safety or the Delaware Farm Bureau, go to 

Steve Breeding is Sussex County Farm Bureau’s president and Delaware Farm Bureau’s first vice president.
  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter