LONDON, ONT. -- The Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) is reporting an uptick in drivers on rural highways, which causes concern as farmers ramp up for harvest season.

A lot of people -- as a result of the pandemic and certain restrictions that have been in place -- have left more urban settings and are heading out into the country side to explore and play,” said Scott Butler, executive director for OGRA.

Local farmers say they take extra precautions when travelling on highways in farming equipment.

“A lot of it is a lot bigger than what it used to be. That’s why we’ve got to be a lot more safety conscious on the roads,” said Jamie Herb of Gordleh Farms.

Drivers are encouraged to slow down when approaching a slow moving vehicle, give it extra space, and pass only when it is safe to do so.

Other than safety concerns around passing slow moving vehicles, Butler says there are major financial implications that come with incidents involving cars and farm equipment.

“There’s the obvious ones contained in the Highway Traffic Act. Recently the Government of Ontario amended some of those penalties to make them even more significant,” said Butler.

He added that incidents can end up burdening local community members as well.

“Roadways are a significant source of liabilities for municipalities and when these types of accidents happen it can be very costly to the public purse,” said Butler.

Both Butler and Hern are encouraging drivers to exercise patience when passing through rural areas and approaching slow moving vehicles, for the benefit of everyone.