Tractor safety

A student participates in a previous year's tractor safety course put on by UNL Extension.

COVID-19 has caused changes to the way schools teach, and it’s no different for the teen tractor safety program offered by University of Nebraska Extension and others this summer.

Much of the learning will take place online, and instead offering instruction at 12 different sites, just five locations will host in-person driving tests with safety precautions for students and trainers.

Students will take the first day of the course online through the extension Foundation Campus website. Students are asked to register for the course before July 10. After successfully completing online testing, the required driving test will be offered July 27-31 at five locations across Nebraska:

O’Neill -- July 27, Akrs Equipment, 49110 U.S. Highway 20, contact Debra Walnofer at 402-336-2760 or

Gering -- July 28, Legacy of the Plains Museum, 2930 Old Oregon Trail #8500, contact Stacy Brown at 308-632-1480 or

North Platte -- July 29, West Central Research and Extension Center, 402 W. State Farm Road, contact Randy Saner or Vicki Neidhardt at 308-532-2683 or

Grand Island -- July 30, Hall County Extension, 3180 W. Highway 34, contact Nancy Usasz at 308-754-5422 or

Weeping Water -- July 31, Cass County Fairgrounds, 8420 144th St, contact Sandy Prall at 402-267-2205 or

The cost is $40. Visit for a registration form.

Teens age 14 or 15 who work on farms are encouraged to register for the course learning about safe farming practices.

Federal law prohibits children under 16 from using certain equipment on a farm unless their parents or legal guardians own the farm. However, certification received through the course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with certain mechanized equipment.

Susan Harris, University of Nebraska Extension Educator, reports that overturned tractors and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are a common cause of agricultural-related injuries and deaths in Nebraska. This course is designed to train students on how to avoid these incidents as well as other farm and ranch hazards.

The online course will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, including quizzes which students must pass to attend the driving portion of training. Once a student is registered, they will be sent a training manual, course paperwork and a link to the online course.

The onsite driving training and exam will include a driving test and equipment operation and ATV safety lessons. Students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course. Instructors also will offer education about safe behaviors and laws for ATVs, utility-task vehicles and other off-road vehicles.

In order to protect students and trainers, the number of students on site will be limited to allow proper social distancing. Students and trainers will be provided a mask and required to wear it at all times during instruction and driving. Equipment, steering wheels, control knobs and hitches will be disinfected before and after each student completes their testing.

Students who have had a fever or persistent cough within 14 days of testing will be required to reschedule their driving test. Additional driving tests may be added in August to accommodate students who are unable to attend the scheduled trainings in July.

Instructors for the course are members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health: Aaron Yoder, Ellen Duysen, UNMC graduate student Alyssa Damke and Nebraska Extension educators Troy Ingram, Randy Saner and John Thomas.