Driving with Ontario’s Farmers

As warm weather (finally!) returns, Southern Ontario residents are going to see significantly more tractors moving on the road during the planting season.

Here are some tips from Bulwark Legal Services to help drivers share the road with Ontario’s farmers.

All farming implements, combines, tractors and other agricultural vehicles in Ontario are required to have a slow-moving vehicle sign affixed while using Ontario highways, as per section 76 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). All vehicles bearing this sign are legally obliged never to exceed 40KM/HR, even if the vehicle is capable of surpassing that speed (most cannot). As most Ontario speed limits are in excess of 40 KM/HR, Ontario drivers are obliged to either follow behind these implements until the farm machinery leaves the roadway, or to pass. Any driver striking a farming implement, combine or tractor is liable to a charge under the HTA as if they had struck another motor vehicle under similar circumstances, in addition to potential civil liability for damages.

When following behind an agricultural implement, tractor or combine, Ontario drivers should always remember to leave extra distance. Farming implement, tractors and combines may reach 40KM/HR on flat road services. However, on inclines, their rate of acceleration may rapidly decrease due to the weight they are hauling uphill. This deceleration may lead you to strike them from behind if you are following too close: or, dangerously reduce your following distance. Failure to leave adequate distance significantly increases the risk that you will strike that vehicle should they be forced to brake suddenly. Your involvement in this accident could lead to one (or multiple) traffic charges under the HTA, including a careless driving charge.

Remember: you should always use caution when passing any vehicle. Unlike cars and other motor vehicles, farming implements have pieces that jut out in apparently unexpected places. Also, most farm implements are not optimized for road travel. They also often appear to sway or rock while travelling on the road. These implements can significantly damage your vehicle if you attempt to pass too close. The size of the farm machinery may also impair your vision, potentially leading you to pull out in front of oncoming traffic. Drivers should also be cognizant about the size and weight of farming implements: these vehicles often have extended stopping distances. Always give more then enough room when pulling in front of a tractor or farming implement. Otherwise, the farmer may be unable to stop in time, should you be required to brake unexpectedly. Failure to ensure the way is clear before passing farm machinery could lead to several different HTA charges, including failure to share the roadway or failure to yield. The weight and construction of farm machinery mean any accident they are involved in will likely involve extensive damage to your vehicle.

Though many farmers do drive the shoulder of the road with tractors, combines and other farming implements, they are not obliged to, unless driving on the road would obstruct the oncoming lane. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture recommends farmers use the “traveled” portion of the road, as the shoulder may not be designed or maintained to support the weight of farming implements. Drivers should not expect farm machinery to move onto the shoulder, as farmers have the legal right to occupy the travelled portion of the road. Never attempt to pass a farm tractor or implement on the right using the shoulder. You may catch and cause serious damage to your vehicle, in addition to possibly having to deal with HTA charges for your role in the incident.

Drivers in Ontario are obliged to share the road with other motorists. This includes farmers moving agricultural implements from one property to another. Sharing the roadway with farming implements requires special care and attention not normally required when sharing the road with other vehicles. Should you receive a traffic ticket resulting from an incident involving a farm vehicle, you should always consult with a legal representative to verify the best response to the charges. Bulwark Legal Services would be pleased to provide consultation on these, and any other, traffic charges you may have resulting from the HTA. Bulwark Legal Services offers a free consultation on any traffic charge.