Riding mower lawn tractor rollovers have been a problem ever since riding mowers have been in existence. As early as 1970, studies began to be published indicating that they were the most frequent kind of accidents associated with these machines. By 1980, the Consumer Product Safety Commission began keeping statistics of persons taken to emergency rooms because of rollovers of these machines. By 2003, their statistics showed that in excess of 54,000 people had been taken to emergency rooms because of riding mower rollover injuries. It is undisputed that when these machines roll over the operator can be pinned and killed.
By 1966, the tractor manufacturing industry in this country came out with rollover protective systems which ultimately were adopted by the riding mower industry. The solution to the problem is known as a Rollover Protection System (ROPS). Historically, a properly installed and utilized ROPS is almost 100% effective in preventing deaths. A ROPS is nothing more than a seatbelt and a roll bar.
Unfortunately, even though industry has been aware of ROPS since 1966, they have only been available since 1997 for lawn tractors. Several manufacturers make them available, but only as optional equipment at a higher price. Some of the older readers of this column may recall a time when seat belts in passenger automobiles were not available, and then, after becoming available, were extra price options, along with passenger side view mirrors. Of course, it is inconceivable today that consumers would be required to pay extra for such vital safety equipment.
Because this is a topic of importance and detail, it will be continued in my next blog entry.