Riding Mowers not for Children

person using a riding lawn mower

Many children love to ride as a passenger on a riding mower. In fact, riding along on the mower with dad or granddad is a fond memory most of us have. But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 9,000 of the injuries sustained in mower accidents each year happen to children under the age of eighteen.

Those injuries are often very serious—loss of fingers, toes, feet, and even legs are common, as are very deep cuts, burns, eye injuries, and broken bones. Ninety-five percent of the power mower injuries at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center were amputated body parts that either had to be reattached or reconstructed. Since there’s generally dirt and debris involved, these wounds are at high risk for infection, often taking much longer to heal.

Lessons to Learn

The most important lesson for adults to impress upon kids is that lawnmowers are tools—not toys. Children have to learn proper safety techniques exactly as they would if you let them move around, say, in your workshop while you’re operating a power saw. For example, they need to wear closed-toed shoes, and they must learn not to run toward you while you’re operating the mower because they could slip and fall toward the blade. It is best to explain these safety rules to children, age appropriately of course, and tell them why the rules are so important.

It is also vital that all the adults who are around the riding mower treat it with the same care and follow the same rules that are expected of the children. If you have told them never to approach you while the mower is in motion, then your wife runs barefoot to you as you mow, they will notice. Next time, it may be that child who runs barefoot toward the mower.

Most of all, keep children seated at all times if they must ride on the mower with you. Show them which parts might be hot so they are careful not to bump small legs or arms against hot metal.

Keep Kids off Mowers

Industry experts take it one step further; they recommend keeping children under the age of sixteen off of ride-on mowers altogether, even if they’re riding with a parent. After all, a power mower is just like a vehicle. With a blade that can spin at a rate of about 160 miles per hour, it can tear into young flesh before you can blink your eyes.

These same experts also say that children under age six should be kept indoors while someone is operating a power mower; that’s because many accidents occur when the person mowing does not realize a child is behind the mower, and they put it in reverse and back over the child.

The number of kids injured in garden tractor accidents has increased dramatically—in 1999, there were only about 800, compared to today’s 9,000. This is two out of every 1,000 injury emergency room visits. Since manufacturers are adding more safety features and cautionary notes (Husqvarna, for example, uses a bright yellow key tag with the warning “Kids and Mowers don’t mix”), it’s surprising there are more injuries than ever. Whatever the reason, though, no parent wants such a devastating injury to happen to their child. Take precautions for a better experience with your family and the riding mower.