Using a slow moving vehicle sign properly

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Submitted by the Ohio Farm Bureau

One of the most iconic signs as you drive down the road in rural Ohio is that bright orange multicolored triangle, slow moving vehicle (SMV) sign seen on the back of a piece of farm equipment. Just as important as farmers using these signs on their machinery is motorists understanding exactly what those signs mean.

“The slow moving vehicle sign is designed to alert a motorist that you are on a piece of machinery that is designed to operate at a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour,” said Leah Curtis, policy counsel with Ohio Farm Bureau. “So it’s a way to let motorists know that as they’re coming up onto the back of that equipment and that they need to slow down and take caution.

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There are a few of the basic rules on using a slow moving vehicle sign.

“The sign should be on any tractor or machinery,” Curtis says. “It has to be visible from at least 500 feet behind the tractor. And if you have a towed implement, such as a planter or something behind, it cannot obstruct that SMV sign. And if the SMV sign is not going to be visible from 500 feet of the towed implement, then you need to have one on the implement.”

But there are some ways that a SMV sign should never be used.

“You can use your SMV on any animal-drawn transportation vehicle, on any farm machinery and certain construction equipment that’s on the roadway should use it,” Curtis said. “But we see a lot of people improperly use them on driveways or other places just to show caution, which is actually a minor misdemeanor. The last thing we want to do is to dilute the usefulness of the sign by putting it in places that it shouldn’t be.”

If an SMV sign was put on the original equipment and that equipment has been around for a while it may be time to consider making sure that it’s still visible, maybe even replacing it. Once those signs fade they can lose up to 75 percent of their visibility. And that means you’ve lost 75 percent of your visibility to the motorists around you. 

“We want everybody to stay safe and this is one of the easiest ways for people to see you, to know that you know they need to slow down, they need to take caution,” Curtis said. “So, if you do see them fading, if they’re not that bright color that they were when you bought them or they look a little different than the ones you see in the farm store, get a new one, wire it on, make sure it’s on there so people can see you and we can keep everybody safe.”