After submitting an article to this publication on mowing safety and the alarming number of mowing-related fatal and nonfatal injuries that have occurred recently — affecting toddlers to teens to seniors — I drove across Iowa to visit family. The drive was beautiful, the weather perfect. And on a 70-mile stretch of two-lane highway, I saw three fellas mowing steep ditches next to their residences, all on zero-turn mowers, all mowing along a sidehill or making quick turns and reverses on a too-steep slope, at risk of their mower rolling over onto them.

The next day, an Iowa teenager was killed while mowing ditches at a family member’s farm near Fairfax.

These tragedies take lives too soon and change the lives of their loved ones forever.

A few years ago, a Nebraska man told me about his own experience. He was mowing a ditch when his mower overturned on him, pinning him. He was unable to move, his trunk pressed against his legs, losing ability to breathe. He survived only because a young woman drove by, saw the overturned mower in the ditch, and stopped. She called 911 for help. He was hospitalized. But she’d saved his life.

These mowers are great, easy to operate, and I’ve used one for 10 years. But I’ve also noticed how easily you can slide or a front wheel can come off the ground if you’re traversing a slope or on uneven terrain. Reviewing the injuries and deaths from mowing accidents has made me even more vigilant on slopes. I’ll only drive down them now, as the operators’ manual and safety guidelines advise.

Please check the reminders at and maybe even think about letting those ditches grow.

Stephanie Leonard

Riverside, Iowa

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