When the weather warms up, and the grass starts to grow high, rural and suburban families excitedly anticipate spending time their back and front yards. However, every year in the U.S., more than 800 children are injured by riding lawn mowers or small tractors, and more than 600 of those incidents result in amputation. For children under age 10, major limb loss is most commonly caused by lawn mowers.1
According to results presented at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Annual Meeting in March 2017, injuries were caused most often when children:
- ran behind a mower;
- slipped under the mower while riding as a passenger;
- collided with mower blades when machines were steered in reverse; or
- were struck by a mower that rolled over due to an uneven and/or wet surface.
In many cases, adults did not realize children were near the mower when injuries occurred.1
Because of these sobering statistics, the Amputee Coalition provides tips and pointers for before you mow, while you mow, and when you put the mower away. All of this advice can be summed up by saying, “When operating a mower or tractor, keep your children inside and don’t let them play nearby.”
Before You Mow
- Clear the Area. Not only does this include clearing the area of children and pets, but also make sure that toys, rocks, stray branches, and any other sort of debris have been picked up.
- Read the Manual. While not a traditional “beach read,” it’s important to know how your machine operates. If you don’t have the physical copy of the user manual, go online and search by your machine’s model number and brand name to find a digital copy.
- Gear Up. Don’t wear open-toed shoes, flip-flops, or sandals. Consider long pants to protect against debris being thrown up and kicked back. If you’re mowing a larger plot, use earplugs or headphones to protect your hearing. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from dust and debris.
- Check Your Machine. Just the same way you would check your vehicle before taking it on a long road trip, check your mower to make sure it’s in good working order. Check the gas, wheels, and oil.
- Adhere to Age Guidelines. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does have some recommendations they suggest parents and adults follow. If you have a standard push mower, they recommend a child be at least 12 years old before being allowed to operate it. If you have a riding lawn mower, the AAP suggests that children be at least 16 years old before using.2
While You Mow
- For Push Mowers: Only use mowers that have automatic shut-off abilities, such as those that stop all motion once the handle is released.
- For Riding Lawn Mowers: Make sure your mower includes an automatic shut-off when the rider is not sitting in the seat.
- For All Mowers: Don’t let children “help” by either pushing with you or sitting beside you or on your lap as you drive. It’s too easy for children to slip from laps and seats and into danger.
- Do Not Remove the Grass Catcher or unclog the discharge chute until the mower is completely shut off. Use a stick or other tool and not your hands.
- Stay Away from the Exhaust. A lawn mower can reach temperatures of up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Anyone who is near this exhaust could suffer a severe burn.
- Be Careful of Hills and Sharp Cornering. When a mower tips over, accidents happen.
After You Mow
- Beware of Stored Energy. Many motorized lawn and garden implements can store energy, like a coiled spring, in the drive mechanism. Know that if a lawn mower or similar device suddenly jams and stalls, there may still be stored tension in the machine. Reaching in to remove the obstruction may cause the blades to move again suddenly. That can be enough to cause serious injuries to fingers or anything else that happens to be in the way.3
- Store Mower Safely. Safely storing your machine includes making sure it is completely turned off and brakes are full engaged. Make sure your children understand that the mower should never be played on or around.
- Owen, Jen. “Lawn Mower Accidents are the Leading Cause of Amputations for Children in the USA.” Enabling the Future. Published July 12, 2017. Retrieved from http://enablingthefuture.org/2017/07/12/lawn-mower-accidents-are-the-leading-cause-of-amputations-for-children-in-the-usa/
- American Academy of Pediatricians. org. Retrieved from https://static2.momsimage.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LawnmowerSafety.png
- Uren, Brad. 9 Essential Lawn Mower Safety Rules to Know Before You Mow. University of Michigan Health. Published May 09, 2017. Retrieved from: https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/wellness-prevention/9-essential-lawn-mower-safety-rules-to-know-before-you-mow
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Authors and Contributors
The Amputee Coalition is grateful to the many organizational members and individuals that have contributed to this work. The Amputee Coalition Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee (SciMAC) conducts expert peer view for the Amputee Coalition-commissioned patient education materials. SciMAC contributes clinical and scientific expertise in developing, implementing, and evaluating the Amputee Coalition program and policy initiatives.
Suggested AMA format citation for this material:
Burnell A, Hurley C, Miller ME. Getting Behind the Wheel with Limb Loss and Limb Difference. https://www.amputee-coalition.org/. Published March 2021. Accessed 3/31/2021.
It is not the intention of the Amputee Coalition to provide specific medical or legal advice but rather to provide consumers with information to better understand their health and healthcare issues. The Amputee Coalition does not endorse any specific treatment, technology, company, service or device. Consumers are urged to consult with their healthcare providers for specific medical advice or before making any purchasing decisions involving their care.
National Limb Loss Resource Center, a program of the Amputee Coalition, located at 900 East Hill Ave., Suite 390, Knoxville, TN 37915 | 888/267-5669
© Amputee Coalition. Local reproduction for use by Amputee Coalition constituents is permitted as long as this copyright information is included. Organizations or individuals wishing to reprint this article in other publications, including other World Wide Web sites must contact the Amputee Coalition for permission to do so.