Last year almost 20,000 people were injured so severely by ride-on mowers that they needed treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Approximately 75 people were killed and about one out of five was a child under the age of 10. The injury rate for ride-on mowers, including lawn and garden tractors, is the same as for chain-saws about one injury a year for every 400 machines in use.

Tip-over accidents are a major cause of injuries. Most of the injuries result from contact with the blade. Although injuries from ride-on mowers have remained steady over the past decade, injuries from walk-behind mowers declined approximately 38 percent between 1983 and 1989. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the decline is largely due to an effective and mandatory federal safety standard.

Unfortunately, there is no comparable standard for ride-on mowers. A voluntary safety standard for ride-on mowers was published in 1986, but tests by Consumer Reports found that this voluntary standard, even if followed by manufacturers, was inadequate. Consumer Reports recommended that the standard be strengthened to require:

Manufacturers of ride-on mowers have the technical ability to design in these safety features, and some already have. Until there is an effective and mandatory safety standard, however, trial lawyers will continue to work through the courts to force less responsible manufacturers to incorporate state-of-the-art safety equipment in their mowers.

  • A blade brake control which stops the blade within three seconds after the operator leaves the seat; This is perhaps the most important step in reducing injuries!
  • Minor design changes so that an abrupt release of the clutch in high gear while on a moderate slope cannot cause the tractor’s front wheels to rise more than 10 degrees and buck
  • A 2 mile per hour limit on the reverse speed to reduce the risk of back-up accidents
  • A single control for speed and direction so that operators cannot accidentally shift to reverse in high gear causing the mower to lurch backward
  • A deadman switch similar to the one for the blades which would cut off the engine when the operator left the seat unless the operator also shifts the transmission to neutral and sets the parking brake to prevent mower runaways.
  • A deadman switch similar to the one for the blades which would cut off the engine when the operator left the seat unless the operator also shifts the transmission to neutral and sets the parking brake to prevent mower runaways.

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