Tractors built since 1985 are equipped with seat belts and rollover protection structures (ROPS), frames enclosing the seat area to prevent crushing of the driver in the event the vehicle tips and rolls. Garden tractors are not fitted with ROPSs, although they, too, can overturn on steep terrain or with faulty loading. An important safety feature on any tractor is a PTO guard, designed to prevent clothing or hair from catching on the turning shaft.
Although all new models are equipped with PTO guards, they may have been removed from used tractors to allow easier access when hooking implements to the PTO. If you buy an older tractor without this critical safeguard, have a shield reinstalled.
"You should always shut the machine off when you get off of it," Geisbert advises, "but people leave the machine running, get off and step over the PTO. That's how they get caught and injured."
Before shutting off the tractor, put the gears in neutral and set the brake every time.
"A lot of safety is basic common sense, such as never taking kids on tractors," says Stephenson. "Even though it's almost a symbol of Americana, you should never hold small children on your lap [on a tractor]. A child can fall off."
A passenger of any age sitting on a fender or balanced on the drawbar is at risk of falling, as well. Prevent unauthorized use by keeping the tractor keys stored elsewhere. Consult your owner's manual for other safety precautions.