The aroma of freshly cut grass is one of the pleasures of summer, but you can't smell it if you're in the ER, which is where thousands of people go each year after being injured in lawn-mowing accidents.
More than 80,000 Americans went to the emergency room with lawn-mower injuries in 2015, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And nearly 5,000 of them were children. Lawnmower accidents are the No. 1 reason for pediatric amputations nationwide, according to the Amputee Coalition.
Already this summer, people have died in lawn-mowing accidents in Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, among other states. And last summer, a 4-year-old in American Fork, Utah, had to have her leg amputated after she was run over by a riding lawnmower.
The dangers of pushing or riding a machine with spinning blades are apparent, but few people have time to cut their lawns with scissors, and learning to cut the grass is an important rite of childhood in many families.
True, some people move to town homes and trade a yard for a patio, or opt for communities where lawn care is included. Others eschew mowing by opting for a "natural yard."
But if you have grass that demands to be mowed, here are six rules of thumb to help keep your family safe.
12 and older. The American Academy of Pediatrics says most children are ready to learn to mow the lawn using a push or self-propelled mower at age 12. But they shouldn't use a riding mower until they're at least 16, and they should never be a passenger on a riding lawn mower, at any age.
Walk the yard. When teaching children to mow, don't just show them how to prime the engine and pull the starter. Teach mowing safety, which includes walking the lawn before starting to mow. You'll be looking for dangerous items that could fly up and injure you, such as stones, sticks or toys. A viral video this spring also advises mowers to look out for dead patches of grass, which could conceal a nest of baby bunnies.
Banish spectators. A lawnmower can turn a small object into a missile, shooting it up to 2,100 feet at 200 miles per hour, according to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University. Send everyone inside while someone is mowing, with one exception: If an inexperienced adolescent or teen is mowing, a grownup should supervise at a safe distance.
Act like a pilot. Before every flight, an airplane pilot walks around the plane and looks for potential problems. Before mowing, do the same with your mower — check that protective guards and shields are in place, the grass catcher is secure and no oil or gas is leaking.
Dress the part. Have a lawn-mowing outfit, which should include long pants, closed-tip shoes, safety goggles and ear plugs or ear muffs.
Watch the weather. Don't mow wet grass; the moisture can damage the mower, or you can slip in the grass. Conversely, if it's hot outside, don't put the lawn mower away until it cools off. A hot lawn mower can ignite grass or anything else that is flammable. A recent wildfire in Idaho began after a man ran over a garden hose while mowing. Also, you should never mow the lawn when a tornado is bearing down, like one man in Canada did in June.
Or, for the safest lawn mowing of all, hire goats, which are environmentally friendly and will even fertilize your lawn as they nibble.