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Hayride safety

A safe ride helps ensure a good time

I love hayrack rides, especially in the fall when the owners of a nearby apple orchard give delightful tours of their farm on the way to the pumpkin patch.

Farm Safety Specialist Bobby Grisso at Virginia Tech University says if you're offering hayrides, make sure the driver is responsible and skilled with tractor and wagon operation. There shouldn't be any extra riders on the tractor, either. If the wagon doesn't have side rails or seats, provide a way for everyone to hang on.

"A lot of times what I'll see is that hay is either in bales or spread around on the wagon," says Grisso. "And so remembering to keep some kind of format where people can either can sit or have some handles to be able to hold onto, means that the wagon has to be sturdy in the first place so a good stable wagon is critical, one that's going to track behind the tractor without too much straying back and forth."

Grisso says only one wagon should be pulled. Don't attach multiple wagons because that results in what he calls a snaking effect.

Before the rides begin, inspect the tractor and wagon to be sure they're operating correctly. Also check the hitch and safety chains. Provide an efficient way to load and unload riders without anyone falling. Once they're on the hayrack, go over a few safety pointers, such as no horsing around.

"A little bit of information for the crowd and keeping them on the wagon, making sure that they don't throw things out, throw things in. Making sure that nobody smokes during the hayride is a critical item," says Grisso. "The other thing that is probably often forgotten is that a lot of people do carry cameras and camcorders. Especially on a dark night, that can actually blind your operator if you happen to get them into the light."

Sometimes a driver will turn off all lights on the tow vehicle to enhance the atmosphere. But Grisso says this is a problem if there is other traffic nearby.

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