We might not have the “fall temperatures” and the “changes of seasons” that you see up north, but fall festivals are in full swing here in North Florida. Every year, my husband I and take our children to at least one fall festival. Our kids ride the “cow train” and take a hayride. Just this past Saturday, my husband looked at me as we were clutching our three children tightly on a tractor hayride and said “isn’t this an accident waiting to happen?” Do we live in fear and caution as a result of my chosen profession? No – but it does make us think when we do certain things. Imagine my dismay to see the following story in the newsfeed for First Coast News….
A 17-year-old girl was killed and a 16-year-old boy has been seriously injured in a hayride accident in Maine last month. The 17-year-old was on the hay wagon that was being pulled by a Jeep, with several other students Messalonskee High School, when it lost control and careened down a hill, hit a tree and overturned. State Police have impounded the vehicle and will conduct a safety inspection on it. Many of the injured have been treated and released, but police say some still remain hospitalized.
Investigators were inspecting the Jeep to try to determine exactly what kept it from stopping on the hill, and state police were calculating the passengers’ weight to determine if the hay wagon was overloaded and whether that contributed to the mechanical problem, Sgt. Joel Davis of the state fire marshal’s office told reporters. The October Saturday night crash during the Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride “threw everyone off the trailer and into each other and into trees,” Davis said.
It wasn’t the only fatal accident at a fall festivity in October. In northern New Jersey, a vehicle struck several people near a farm, killing one person and injuring several others. The crash happened at a fall festival in Chester, about 40 miles west of Newark.
So what can we do as participants in hayrides to make sure they are safe for our children? The tractor pulling the wagon must have the power, weight, traction and braking ability to control the load. Make sure the wagon has no loose boards, screws or splinters. Make sure there is not more than one wagon per tractor. The use of multiple wagons can lead to “snaking” which can cause sideswiping or overturning of wagons.
Click here for more information on safety on hayrides: http://www.gshnj.org/_media/for-adults/safety-checkpoints/hayrides2012.pdf