Stay Safe While Mowing the Lawn

Learn some safety precautions to keep everyone safe while mowing the lawn.

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By Ann S. Kim, Raleigh News & Observer

When spring is in full swing, nearly 50 million walk-behind mowers and 12 million riding lawn mowers and tractors are in use across the nation to keep an estimated 50 million acres of grass trimmed and tidy each year.

That translates into an average of 20,000 people injured from lawn mowers each year, according to figures from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

"It really runs the gamut from a simple abrasion or laceration to amputation," said Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the commission.

In the late 1980s, about 75 deaths were attributed to lawn mowers annually, according to Wolfson, but that figure is dropping. A child is the victim in one out of every five fatalities.

The decline may be attributed, in part, to a number of improvements in mowers. For example, one new standard adopted in September prevents the cutting blades from operating when mowers shift into reverse. That improvement could help prevent injuries to children who are near the mower unbeknownst to the operator.

"What we're seeing with kids running around the lawn," Wolfson said, "they're not hearing, they're not detecting the kids."

He added that the commission still stands by its advice of not allowing a child to sit with the operator on a riding lawn mower; the injuries that result when a child falls off a parent or grandparent's lap are very severe.

Duke Trauma Center treats between five and 10 people injured by lawn mowers each year, according to Claudia McCormick, the trauma program director. Children are most likely the patients who will have to undergo amputation, she said.

Alcohol often is a factor in the mower incidents seen at the trauma center, McCormick said.

"It's a hot summer day, you're out working in the yard, think you'll have a beer or two and you're not at your top form and you do foolish things," she said.

Sometimes, the operator exercises impaired judgment by checking the blades while the mower is still running. Other times, an impaired person might decide to take a ride.

"They're driving down the road, and they're involved in crashes," she said. "We've heard literally, 'I was too drunk to drive a car.' "

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