LANCASTER, Wis. — Although she does not live on a farm, Addilynn Riley is a fan of tractors.
The 8-year-old from Fennimore visits her grandparents’ farm, where her family warns her to stay away from the heavy equipment.
“My grandpa gave me one of his tractors, but I can’t drive it yet,” she said, adding that she hopes to do so in the future.
For that to happen, Riley will need to learn the basics of farm safety. On Tuesday, she got a head start.
Riley was one of about 250 Grant County children who attended a Rural Safety Day camp at the county fairgrounds in Lancaster.
The event aimed to teach second through eighth graders to identify potential hazards, to prevent accidents and to respond correctly should one occur.
Rural Safety Day has been held for more than 20 years, spearheaded by the Grant County Health Department in concert with several businesses and county agencies. Although it has roots in farm safety, instruction now includes topics pertinent to all children, including internet safety, toxic chemicals and wearing seat belts.
Lucas Towne, of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, highlighted the importance of buckling up using a simulator, known as a rollover convincer.
As students watched from bleacher seats, he strapped three dummies into a car cabin and proceeded to spin the vehicle on its axis.
After ricocheting off the seats and dashboard, the dummies were flung through the vehicle’s open windows, whereupon the still-rotating cab smashed them into the ground.
“Where do you think he’s landing? On the pavement, right?” Towne asked.
Although all the children said they wear a seatbelt every time they are in a vehicle, a handful said their parents did not.
“Well, tell them this,” Towne said. “Say, ‘If we ever got into a rollover, you would not be able to control where you go and you could slam into me in an accident.’”
Unintentional injuries, such as those caused by drownings or vehicle crashes, are the leading causes of death among those who are younger than 20 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety estimates that about 33 children nationwide are injured in agriculture-related incidents daily and a child dies in an agriculture-related accident every three days.
“We always say, ‘Do they get anything out of the day?’ I think so,” said Troy Moris, Grant County environmental health coordinator. “If we can just get one out of that 250, then it was worth it.”
Anna Riley, Addilynn’s mother, remembers attending Rural Safety Day when she was a child.
“I think it’s good for all the kids to know how to be safe when they are around equipment … or just living in rural areas,” she said. “I think a lot of kids don’t understand how big and dangerous those machines are.”