It’s a sobering message: “It’s easier to bury a tradition than a child.”
And while the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network’s “Keep Kids Away From Tractors” campaign may seem yet another do-gooder effort to take away another part of the experience of growing up on a farm, the tragic reality is that death and injury for children on the farm continue much out of proportion to the non-rural populace.
Many of those accidents/deaths stem from children 12 and under being allowed to operate tractors or being allowed to ride on them with adult drivers.
Once every 3.5 days — that’s the dismaying statistic of how often a child in the U.S. dies from injuries on the farm. And CASN notes, the most common element in those deaths is a tractor.
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In 2013, a 1-year old boy died after falling from a tractor driven by his father; a 6-year old boy and his grandfather died when the tractor they were on rolled over; a 5-year old girl died when she fell through the windshield of a combine driven by her father; and on and on.
Compounding the tragedies, CASN says: “These deaths were 100 percent preventable.
Acknowledging that allowing children to ride on tractors has long been considered a tradition on American farms, CASN, a coalition of 38 health, safety, and youth organizations, is urging adults to always think twice about allowing children 12 and under to operate tractors or ride on them.
The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety’s 2014 Fact Sheet notes that safety awareness campaigns are proving successful. From 1998 to 2012, the rate of childhood agricultural injuries per 1,000 farms (including youth who lived on, visited, or were hired to work on farms) declined by 61 percent, and the rate of injuries per 1,000 youth living on farms dropped by 57 percent.
Unfortunately, while those figures are encouraging, the numbers are less so for injuries to children on farms under age 10, which spiked significantly from 2009 through 2012.
Of the leading sources of childhood agricultural fatalities, 25 percent involved machinery, 17 percent motor vehicles (including ATVs), and 16 percent drownings. Among youth working on farms, machinery accounted for 73 percent of the deaths.
Each day, the center notes, 38 children are injured in ag-related incidents — 7,780 in 2012 — and 80 percent of them were injuries not related to farm work.
From a very young age, children in agriculture grow up participating in farming activities, and tractors, machinery, and ATVs are a part of the tradition (and yes, fun) of farm life.
But CASN reiterates: “It’s easier to bury a tradition than a child.”