Harvest rush expected to bring spike in crashes with agricultural vehicles  

As farmers begin the harvest season and agricultural traffic increases, all countryside road users are being warned to take extra care over the coming months. 

NFU Mutual warns drivers to be extra cautious while driving through rural areas during the busy harvest season.

The harvest season is already underway in some places, with livestock farmers making their vital first cut of silage to build stores to feed cattle through next winter.

As the general public may be unaware, this silage collection is followed by hay making, generally from June onwards, with arable crop harvesting taking place through July and August. This means the next few months will see a sharp increase in agricultural traffic.

Rise in incidents

With the unseasonably wet weather continuing throughout March and April, rural insurer NFU Mutual is concerned that a rush to complete tasks could lead to an increase in incidents involving agricultural vehicles.

The next few months will see higher volumes of agricultural traffic than in autumn and winter, including many tractors pulling heavy silage and grain trailers or wide agricultural machinery.

With this increase in traffic comes a rise in accidents on rural roads, making it even more important that all rural road users recognise and respect the hazards unique to countryside roads.

The latest claims data from NFU Mutual shows that collisions between agricultural vehicles and third parties were 61% more likely to occur between the start of May and the end of September 2023 than in any other months.

On average, there were 447 of these accidents per month during the silage cutting, hay making, and harvesting season, a rise of 6% over the same period in 2022, compared to 276 per month between October and April.  

Be aware of agricultural vehicles

As well as an increase in agricultural traffic, the summer months also coincide with the school holidays and a greater amount of leisure traffic.  

Road users are not necessarily used to rural roads, which can further increase the risk of accidents.   

According to an NFU Mutual survey, one in four people in the UK are concerned about navigating agricultural vehicles when using rural roads.    

Sara Western, rural road safety specialist at NFU Mutual, is encouraging rural communities and visitors alike to remain aware of tractors, trailers, and other agricultural machinery on the road:      

“With silaging underway in many parts of the UK, we’re beginning to see more tractors, trailers and large agricultural machinery, such as combine harvesters, on our rural roads.    

“Unfortunately, our claims data shows that, year after year, accidents involving these agricultural vehicles and third parties are significantly more likely in the harvesting season. In 2023, these accidents were 61% more likely in the harvest months.” 

Arteries of agricultural industry 

Ms Western added that agricultural machinery is larger, wider and slower than other vehicles, which can tempt road users to overtake, but it is vital to overtake only when it’s safe to do so, when you can see a clear road ahead, there are no field openings, and you have space to pass.

“Many rural roads won’t have long open stretches, so farmers and contractors should remember to pull over, if possible, to allow built-up traffic to pass.

“Where it isn’t possible to allow traffic to pass, motorists and cyclists should remember they are likely driving only a few miles or to the next field opening, so be patient, give agricultural vehicles room to turn, and don’t drive too closely to them.

“Rural roads are not only the gateway to our countryside, they are also the arteries of our agricultural industry and support the harvesting that feeds the nation. Tragically, there were over 1,000 rural road deaths last year, so we’re urging everyone to consider how their behaviour can make countryside roads safer for everyone,” the rural road safety specialist added.

Helpful advice

NFU Mutual’s Rural Road Safety Report, published last year, analysed the latest Department for Transport full year figures and found there were over 1,000 deaths on rural roads in 2022.

NFU Mutual’s guide to respecting rural roads during this year’s harvest season :

All road users  

  • Give plenty of space when overtaking. Vulnerable road users, such as walkers, runners, horse riders and cyclists, should be given as much room as motorists where possible. Do not overtake if there is a solid white line on your side of the road. 
  • Always check for other road users, particularly at the entrance of fields and junctions. 
  • Be patient with fellow road users and only overtake when it is safe for all road users.  
  • Consider where you park to avoid blocking field entrances or obstructing the road for wide agricultural machinery, such as combine harvesters, as they will often need to drive across two lanes. 
  • Be aware of mud on the road. Rural roads are essential to our farming industry and therefore some mud will be dragged from fields to the road.  
  • Familiarise yourself with the Highway Code. 
  • Avoid unnecessary distractions like looking at your phone or listening to music through headphones, allowing you to be aware of your surroundings.  


  • Ensure all equipment is road worthy and pay particular care to things like trailers which may not have been used for months. Check brakes and indicators and make sure you have reflectors and a beacon for your vehicle. Use the Tilly Checklist to inspect your trailer. 
  • Be aware of vulnerable road users or hidden junctions, making contractors aware of these junctions and commonly-used walking, cycling and riding routes. 
  • Familiarise yourself and your contractors with the speed limits for your vehicles. 
  • If your agricultural vehicles leave mud in the road, remember to clean it up. 
  • When turning, indicate in plenty of time and check more than once for road users on your inside. 
  • Be respectful to fellow road users, but only allow them to pass when it is safe to pull over.   

Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists 

  • Speed limits are not targets. Always drive appropriately and remember rural roads are likely to have hazards such as tighter carriageways, blind corners, and animals in the road. 
  • Pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders should consider wearing appropriate clothingwhich enables them to be seen. 
  • Respect that rural roads are vital to our farming industry and expect to encounter tractors, farm machinery or animals in the road. 
  • Signal correctly and in plenty of time, whether you are a motorist, cyclist or horse rider.  

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