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How do you define an accident?

Jen’s Jots: It takes just a moment in time to end a life and permanently scar the lives of so many others.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

November 3, 2023

3 Min Read
 red ATV in a harvested wheat field
BE SAFE: ATVs have become popular for work and recreation on many farms. Unfortunately, reported cases of serious injury and death have increased. Most of these mishaps can be attributed to improper use. wwing/Getty Images

I could still hear the pain of Stan’s loss as his voice crackled talking about the accident that happened two years ago.

A longtime Michigan farmer, Stan adored his young grandson, evidenced by the anguish he still carries from the accident that took his grandson’s life in the spring of 2021.

Outside of a few cuts, bruises and scrapes, the farm had passed decades without any major incident. Stan says he identified and respected the risks of farm life and the importance of following a safety protocol.

I don’t know all the details of the accident. I just couldn’t ask. But I know that it involved his grandson being thrown off an all-terrain vehicle.

It takes just a moment in time to end a life and change the lives of the many left to deal with a grief that never goes away. It creates a vast emptiness, filled with only wonder of what that young person might have grown up to be. The bat he will never swing, the blue suit he will never don to prom, the son he will never name — all lost in a matter of seconds.

Accidents are just that, an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury. At least that’s how the dictionary defines it. It also says the term “accident” implies that nobody should be blamed, and the event may have been caused by unrecognized or unaddressed risks.

I simply cannot fathom losing a child. It must be the most horrific pain, surely compounded by thoughts of how it might have been prevented.

Sometimes, there’s a fine line between being protective and overbearing. I was a mama bear when my kids were growing up, but I’ve become a fierce grizzly grandma bear now. I’m not suggesting we wrap our children in bubble wrap, but take heed of the potential for injury.

ATVs have become popular for work and recreation on many farms. Unfortunately, reported cases of serious injury and death have also increased. Most of these mishaps can be attributed to improper use. Again, I don’t know the details of the accident that took Stan’s grandson, but it serves as a reminder to recognize the dangers.

Make safety a priority

An ATV is not a toy. Children should not be permitted to operate ATVs without specialized training, and then they should only be allowed to operate an ATV of an appropriate size.

While writing a recent story on bin safety, I came across helpful farm safety information on the Nationwide Insurance website, which was provided by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety. Here are a few points to consider:

• ATVs with an engine size of 70 to 90 cubic centimeters should be operated by people at least 12 years of age.

• ATVs with an engine greater than 90 cc should only be operated by people at least 16 years of age.

• Wear appropriate riding gear, such as an approved helmet, goggles, gloves, over-the-ankle boots, long-sleeve shirt and long pants.

• ATVs are not made for multiple riders. Never carry anyone else on an ATV.

• Any added attachments affect the stability, operation and braking of the ATV.

• Do not operate the ATV on streets, highways or paved roads.

Inspect ATV

Conducting an inspection before riding an ATV should be done. Check on these conditions:

• Are tires and wheels in good condition?

• Are controls and cables operational?

• Does the chain have proper slack and is it lubricated?

• Is riding gear, including a helmet, available and worn?

Accidents that might have been prevented are the hardest to live with.

Read more about:

Farm Safety

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

Jennifer was hired as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, and in 2015, she began serving a dual role as editor of Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer. Both those publications are now online only, while the print version is American Agriculturist, which covers Michigan, Ohio, the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic. She is the co-editor with Chris Torres.

Prior to joining Farm Progress, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan, and as director of communications with the Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her resume.

She has been a member of American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 2003. She has won numerous writing and photography awards through that organization, which named her a Master Writer in 2006 and Writer of Merit in 2017.

She is a board member for the Michigan 4-H Foundation, Clinton County Conservation District and Barn Believers.

Jennifer and her husband, Chris, live in St. Johns, Mich., and collectively have five grown children and four grandchildren.

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