Hayrides are enjoyable activities where adults and children can socialize with family, friends and fellow campers while taking in the great outdoors. However, without taking necessary safety precautions, a fun hayride can turn tragic. Some examples of recent accidents where proper planning and attention to safety practices could have prevented injury include:
- A man sustained fatal injuries when he fell off a moving wagon after losing his balance while standing up to brush off his pants.
- A girl had both of her legs broken when the driver turned a sharp corner causing the wagon to hit a building, crushing her overhanging legs between the wagon and building.
- A young boy was riding with several other children on a wagon that had no side rails. When the wagon hit a rut in the dirt road, the boy fell off and was fatally injured when run over by the wagon’s rear wheel.
When organizing a hayride, planning and safety guidelines should focus on three key areas: the participants, the driver and the moving vehicle (towing vehicle and wagon). It’s important to establish guidelines for riders and set a maximum limit should be set for how many people can safety be seated on the wagon. Ensure that all participants fit comfortably within the wagon’s side rail enclosure, with ample room to remain comfortably seated throughout the ride.
Only use wagons with side rails that are high enough to prevent people from falling off the wagon when seated—usually three to four feet. Sturdy side rails also offer back support for seated passengers.
Enforce a “no standing policy” as a safety procedure during the ride. Riders should remain seated while under way and keep their arms and legs within the perimeter of the side rails.
Have at least one adult attendant, in addition to the driver, on each trip to help supervise the group. The attendant should assist passengers with boarding and exiting the wagon, properly seat participants for their comfort and safety, and explain hayride rules.
Drivers should receive adequate training about operating the towing vehicle (usually a tractor) and wagon on different road surfaces, along narrow trails and on inclines. Also, the drivers and/or attendants should carry cell phones in the event of an emergency. In addition, the towing vehicle should be equipped with a fire extinguisher, flashlight and first-aid kit.
All hayride equipment needs to be properly maintained and well equipped. Inspect the towing vehicle and wagon before each trip, especially the tires and tow hitch. Ensure the hitch attaching the tractor to the wagon is properly secured with a well-designed hitch pin and safety chains. Look for defective side rails on the wagon and loading/unloading platforms. Be on the lookout for splinters, loose floorboards and exposed nails. Repair any hazards or faulty equipment before starting out on a ride.
Only pull one wagon behind a tractor at a time. Make sure appropriate running lights are operational, and use a slow moving vehicle sign as required by local laws if operated on public roadways.
Provide a sturdy stepping platform with a handrail for passengers to use when mounting or dismounting the wagon. Do not allow passengers to climb over the sides to enter or exit the wagon.
Plan the travel route. Proper conditioning of the trail is critical to safety. The route should be free of steep hills, bumps, ruts and fallen or overhanging branches. Avoid traveling on busy roads.
Take the time to plan ahead and provide safe and reliable equipment. Doing so will assist your organization with making hayrides memorable and injury-free events for everyone.