Even though the mercury in the thermostat is a poor indicator, the onset of fall brings traditional autumn pastimes like bobbing for apples, wandering through corn mazes and picking the biggest pumpkin in the patch to carve your jack-o'-lantern.
Those activities are fun for the young and the young of heart of all ages. But there is one popular fall activity that carries with it a significant risk — hayrides.
Why a hayride can be dangerous
What sets hayrides apart from other harvest time festivities is the use of heavy equipment. Any time large machinery is a part of the mix, deadly accidents can take place. Also, hayrides often have many active youngsters perched on hay bales atop open flatbed trailers. The adults who are present frequently have imbibed alcoholic beverages, upping the potential for carelessness.
That doesn't mean that you necessarily have to strike hayrides off of your family's fall calendar of events. Instead, it means that you have to properly prepare and make sure that all safety protocols are in place before climbing aboard.
Is the operator insured?
Some hayrides are handled as business transactions, with proper liability coverage in place, signed waivers and admission fees. Others are casual events with small family farmers hauling the neighbor kids around.
Since many farmers are under-insured, if a child or adult gets injured in the latter scenario, it could be quite difficult to be compensated fully for any claims arising from an accident.
The driver should also have a partner on the flatbed with whom he is in communication. Should an emergency arise, the one in back should be prepared to order the driver to stop and also to perform emergency first aid. There should also be a fire extinguisher handy.
What's the route?
Kentucky roads and fields can have steep dips and inclines that make even short rides too risky. Ask the operator what route will be taken to determine if the terrain is stable and flat enough to navigate safely.
Make sure that the farmer's tractor and other equipment is in good working order and can handle the load its carrying. The bales of hay should be fresh and dry, as wet hay is slippery and gets moldy.
Public hayrides can draw rowdy crowds. Visibly impaired drivers should not be permitted to go on the hayride. Someone should be able and available to help get the young, older and disabled riders on and off of the equipment and to ensure that weight limits are maintained.
If you were injured on a Kentucky hayride this fall, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries and other damages.