As expected, lawnmower accidents always increase dramatically in the spring and summer months. An estimated 9,400 children are injured each year. Many of the accidents result in amputations of legs, hands, fingers, feet and toes.
Experts say that the most serious accidents occur when operators back up rider mowers with the mower blades engaged and run over small children they can’t see. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, back-over accidents alone account for 560 injuries to children each year. The lawnmower industry has known for years that there was a real problem with back-overs of riding mowers. Numerous studies revealed this information to the industry. When these back-over cases occur, the consequences are usually very serious for young children.
In 2003, the lawn mower industry adopted a voluntary industry safety standard requiring new rider mowers to have a “no-mow-in-reverse feature” to prevent the mower from backing up with powered blades. But the safety standard allows manufacturers to install a device that overrides that feature. It has been pointed out that the override device defeats the purpose of the no-mow-in-reverse system. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the rate of lawn-mower related injuries to children remained constant from 1990 through 2004. The study concluded:
Current safety features on these products are not adequate to prevent lawn mower-related injuries.
Most override switches are located on the front control of the mower. The academy recommended that manufacturers locate the override switches on either the posterior wheel well or behind the seat, which would force the operator to look behind the mower before disengaging the no-mow-in-reverse feature. The manufacturers of lawnmowers have an obligation to incorporate the needed safety features on their products. Protecting children has to be considered by the design engineers in their decision-making.