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Kids and Lawn Mowers Don't Mix

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Referring to a 1990 policy statement on riding mowers by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the authors call for public education. The guidelines say children should be at least 14 years old and undergo a training period before operating ride-on mowers.

Kennedy's own rule of thumb is "off and inside," a reminder that kids should not be operators or passengers on mowers and are only out of harm's way if indoors.

Soucy is spreading the message "Know Before You Mow" with posters and pamphlets. The Canadian researchers recommend that no passengers be carried on riding mowers, and that protective footwear -- hard, closed-toe shoes -- be worn by anyone around a mower. They also say that "children younger than 15 years should not operate lawn mowers ... and should not be in the yard when lawn is being mowed."

Fortunately, manufacturers are enhancing the safety of riding lawn mowers. "Starting next year, all of our ride-on mowers will have a reverse lock-out mechanism," says William Lowe, director of marketing at Snapper Inc., based in McDonough, Ga. "This prevents the mower from moving in reverse when the blade is engaged."

In its ride-on owner's manuals, Snapper cautions against children operating or riding on the mowers, and advises that kids remain inside while lawns are being mowed. "But most people don't read owner's manuals," Lowe says, "so now we include both print and video versions to help get the message across."

Some lawn mower dealers also are willing to provide safety information and instruction.

"The safety of our customers is a major concern," says Jerry Shields, a spokesperson for Atlanta-based Home Depot. "The staff spends a lot of time on safety instruction in our tool rental department, and we'd certainly participate in public awareness about lawn mower safety."

Vital Information:

  • Lawn mower injuries to children can be mutilating or fatal, but can often be prevented.
  • Cuts, fractures, and burns account for 60% of all mower injuries; half of these types of injuries require amputation of the toes, feet, or legs.
  • In children under 7, injuries are often the result of falling or jumping from ride-on mowers. Others are caused by sliding under the mower or being backed over, even when parents or relatives are driving.
  • "Off and inside" is a good reminder that kids should not operate or be passengers on riding mowers, and are only out of harm's way if indoors.
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