The SMV celebrates 50 years of roadway safety

The Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem celebrates 50 years as a safety symbol to alert the motoring public of agricultural equipment and horse-drawn vehicles. The Ohio State University is proud to have developed this emblem in the early 1960s. It was specifically designed to reduce the number of rear-end collisions that were occurring at a high rate on rural roads.


SMV history

Early research done in the late 1950s indicated a need for safety while moving farm machinery on roadways. The Automotive Safety Foundation funded a project to study SMV accidents. Early data estimated that 65% of the motor vehicle incidents involving SMVs were rear-end collisions.

Ken Harkness, an engineer in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and his team of graduate students performed testing to determine the best shape and color for the symbol. A highway simulator was constructed to test human recognition rates of slow moving vehicles with most of the testing conducted outside of the Ives Hall Building (no longer standing on OSU campus). In 1963, the SMV emblem was dedicated to the public by OSU President Novice G. Fawcett.

The Goodyear Rubber and Tire Company sponsored initial public exposure to the SMV emblem in 1962. An emblem mounted on the back of a farm wagon and towed by a Ford Tractor made a 3,689-mile trip from Portland, Maine, to San Diego, California.

The first formal introduction of the SMV emblem was at a safety seminar in 1962, where Deere and Company took interest in the design and became an avid promoter. The emblem was adopted by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) and in less than two years became part of many states’ roadway legislation. In 1971 the SMV emblem became the first ASAE Standard to be adopted as a national standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).


SMV characteristics

After testing various designs, a triangular-shaped emblem with a 12-inch-high fluorescent orange center and three 1.75-inch wide reflective borders was determined to be the most effective design for day and night visual identification.

Here are how each of the features work:

The fluorescent center — Good for day-time recognition. The bright orange triangle gets the attention of approaching motorists from more than 1,000 feet.

The red reflective border — Good for night and low visibility conditions. The reflective border catches the beams from approaching headlights and creates the red glow visible to the vehicle operator.

The emblem must be kept in good condition in order for it to be effective. When it becomes faded it cannot be seen at the required 500-foot distance. If the emblem is damaged or bent, it cannot reflect light beams back to the approaching vehicle. It is necessary to replace the SMV when it becomes worn out or damaged. It should also to be cleared of field dust before pulling out onto the road.


SMV emblem mounting
The SMV is most effective when mounted properly on a vehicle. The following list describes proper SMV emblem mounting:

• Visible to the rear.

• In center of vehicle or as near left-center as practicable.
• Triangle point facing upward, with no more than 10 degrees off vertical.
• Placed 2 to 10 feet above the ground.
• Securely or rigidly attached (not required to be permanently mounted).


Restrictions on SMV use

Proper use of the SMV will ensure its effectiveness as a safety device in rural areas. Please encourage your neighbors to use other reflective devices and preserve the heritage of this rural icon for roadway use as it was intended by following these guidelines:

• Maximum vehicle speed is 25 mph; special accommodations made for high-speed tractors requiring the Speed Identification Symbol (SIS)
• Emblem not to be used when transporting equipment with motor vehicles such as on a truck or trailer or at speeds greater than 25 mph; the SMV should be removed or covered when being hauled.
• Emblems are not to be used on stationary objects such as fence posts, gates, or mailboxes.


Ohio law and the SMV

The SMV emblem is required by the Ohio Revised Code when moving implements of husbandry and farm machinery on public roadways. Implements of husbandry are vehicles designed and adapted exclusively for agricultural, horticultural, or livestock-raising operations. Additionally, SMV emblems are recommended for other agricultural-specific vehicles, including horse-drawn vehicles.

The SMV has been adopted for use in other countries, and is currently undergoing review to receive designation as an International Safety Standard. The SMV is one of the most recognized emblems used by farmers and ranchers around the world.

It is with great pride that Ohio can boast the development of this emblem by OSU faculty and students. For 50 years, this emblem has been behind agricultural equipment and horse-drawn vehicles warning the motoring public of a Slow Moving Vehicle.


Working together for safety in agriculture

National Farm Safety and Health Week is September 15-21, 2013. This commemorative week is dedicated to the safety and well-being of hard working farm families. The theme is “Working Together for Safety in Agriculture.” The SMV emblem is just one effort of many organizations working together to protect farmers while traveling on rural roads.

For more information about Ohio State’s safety program, check out their Facebook page at‎. New safety messages, photos, and videos will be posted daily during National Farm Safety and Health Week.


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