Say 'no' to dangerous tradition of extra riders on tractors

National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety
Keeping children safe

Tractors are the No. 1 cause of fatal injuries to children on farms, and yet it’s been a tradition for young children to ride as passengers.

The Boomsma Family of Yankton, S.D., lost their 7-year-old Jaxon in a tractor-related incident at a relative’s farm in April 2017. Jaxon was an extra rider. The Boomsmas decided to tell their story in order to prevent other families from going through similar tragedy.

MORE: Making farm safety personal : S.D. family keeps Jaxon Boomsma’s ‘smile alive’

“I know how hard it is to say no to a child, especially when it’s something they love to do like ride a tractor, but we all have to say ‘no,’” said Troy Boomsma, Jaxon’s father and a territory manager with Pioneer Seeds/Corteva AgriScience.

Tractor rides have an intrinsic appeal for children, said Barbara Lee, Ph.D., director, National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. “But the well-intended activity of a child riding on the tractor with a parent or grandparent is extremely dangerous.”

Barbara Lee

The Boomsmas are not alone. Just since Jaxon’s death, there have been many other fatalities involving children and farm machinery. Here are a few:

  • May 2017: A 9-year-old boy in Inman, Kan., died after falling off a tractor that was pulling a mower. The boy was sitting on the lap of his father.
  • September 2017: A 3-year-old boy in Newburg, N.D., died after he fell out of the cab of a tractor driven by his father.
  • May 2018: A 3-year-old girl in Goshen, Ind., died from injuries she sustained in a tractor runover.
  • June 2018: A 12-year-old girl in Pocahontas County, Iowa, died in a tractor rollover along with the adult operator of the tractor. They were pinned under the machine.
  • May 2019: A 2-year-old girl died after her 12-year-old brother struck her with a skid loader on a Taylor County, Wis., farm. 
  • July 2019:A 14-month old child died from her injuries after being run over by a wagon on a farm in Green Lake County, Wis.
  • July 2019: An 8-year-old boy died in Dane County, Wis., when his father accidentally ran him over with a skid steer loader piece of farming equipment,
  • July 2020: An 11-year-old boy died and his father was injured in a tractor rollover in Center Point, Texas.
  • April 2021: A 2-year-old male of Waupaca County, Wis., was fatally injured when he fell from the cab of a skid steer and became stuck between the arm of the machine and the bucket.
  • June 2021: A 10-year-old boy in Perrinton, Mich., died after falling from a farm tractor. The boy was riding on the tractor’s fender when the tractor hit a bump. A family member was driving.
  • April 2022: A 4-year-old girl in Connecticut died after getting trapped in the rotating blades of a farm machine attached to her father’s tractor.

A searchable database containing these and other publicly-available agricultural injury reports, involving both children and adults, can be found at www.aginjurynews.org.

“Jaxon was always smiling and lived every day to the fullest, so we try to live that way in honor of him,” said Troy Boomsma. “Our faith and family has helped guide us through this difficult journey, and our hope is that by sharing our story we can help others.”