Extension Warns Of Tractor Rollover Consequences

12/28/11 5:50PM By Amy Kolb Noyes
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(Host) Over the past month, two Vermont farmers have died in tractor rollover accidents.

VPR's Amy Noyes tells us about a UVM Extension Service program designed to prevent such tragedies.

(Noyes) The statistics are startling. Tractor rollovers are the leading cause of death and serious injury for American farmers. And farmers are eight times more likely to die on the job than an average worker.

Matt Myers runs Vermont's Rebates for Roll Bars program. He says the problem is widespread:

(Myers) We know that nationally over 150 farmers die every year on tractor rollovers and between six and eight thousand people get injured in tractor rollovers.

(Noyes) Virtually all tractor rollover deaths can be prevented by installing a seatbelt and a bar that wraps above the seat to prevent the tractor from crushing the driver in a rollover.

But that's expensive, and not as easy as it might sound. Tractors made before 1985 didn't come with roll bars, and finding the right retrofit can be difficult.

That's where the Vermont Rebates for Roll Bars program is intended to help. Any Vermont tractor owner can call the program's hotline and find out exactly what's needed to retrofit a tractor with a rollover protection kit. And, the program will cover 70 percent of the cost, up to 765-dollars

Selina Rooney is a third generation family farmer in the Mud City section of Morristown. She says the program enabled her to retrofit the tractor her family uses most, an International made around 1970.

(Rooney) Without the roll bar program, I don't think we would have put it on. But it was really helpful for us because one of the most difficult things is trying to locate a roll bar that will fit your old tractor. And there's thousands and thousands of old tractor models out there. So the program helps us by finding one that will fit our tractor perfectly.

(Noyes) And because the Rooney farm is in Lamoille County, she'll get an extra five percent on her rebate thanks to the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation. That nonprofit has donated 140-thousand dollars over the next three years to support the rollover prevention program in Lamoille County.

What's the link between economic development and tractor accidents? Lamoille Economic Development Director John Mandeville explains:

(Mandeville) Studies have shown that if a farmer is in fact killed in a rollover accident, typically that family farm is out of business within a year or so, and that's about a $910,000 loss to the community. That's pretty big money.

(Noyes) Vermont Rollover Prevention program coordinator Matt Myers says he plans to reach out to every farm in Lamoille County.

(Myers) Our goal together is to make sure every single one of the 357 farms in Lamoille County has the opportunity to put on a roll bar on at least one tractor, so that they can drive that tractor on their more dangerous jobs. And if we are successful in doing this in four years, I'm pretty sure that this will be the first county in the country that can boast that level of safety for their farm population.

(Noyes) While the Lamoille Economic Development donation was earmarked for Lamoille County, any tractor owner in Vermont can take advantage of the rollover prevention program. The program has a telephone hotline to get started.

For VPR News, I'm Amy Noyes.

(Host) The hotline number for UVM's Rollover Prevention program is 877-767-7748. You can also find that number online at VPR-dot-net.

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