Navigating the Dangers of Zero-Turn Mowers

A red zero-turn mower parked on the lawn

The dangers of zero turn mowers can include the mower overturning or slipping when it turns too tightly, and clippings being ejected in a direction that was not expected, causing a safety hazard.

Zero-turn mowers have become increasingly popular among homeowners and landscapers in recent years thanks to their speed, agility, and efficiency. These machines are designed to turn on a dime and easily navigate tight spaces. This makes them ideal for cutting grass and trimming around obstacles. They are also the go-to mower for people who want to create the classic striped lawn look.

However, the trade-offs between speed and safety when using zero-turn mowers can be significant. While they offer many advantages, zero-turn lawnmowers pose severe risks to operators and bystanders.

The Dangers of Zero-Turn Mowers

Are zero-turn mowers dangerous? A zero-turn lawn mower poses serious risks. Some of the most common dangers of zero-turn mowers include the following:


According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one of the primary reasons that make zero-turn mowers dangerous is the risk of rollovers or tip-overs, mainly when operating on uneven or sloped terrain.

Unlike traditional lawn tractors with low gravity and a durable design, zero-turn mowers have a higher center and narrower wheelbase. These make zero-turn mowers more prone to tipping over.

Rollovers and tip-overs can result in serious injuries or fatalities, particularly if the operator is thrown from the mower or pinned underneath it.

To reduce the risk of a mower tipping, it’s essential always to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for operating turn mowers and to avoid using them on terrain that is too steep or uneven.

If you must operate a lawn mower on a slope, use caution and travel up and down the hill rather than across it. Choose from ride-on mowers with a rollover protection system as much as possible.


Riding zero-turn mower to clean lawn

In addition to rollovers, zero-turn mowers can collide with objects, other vehicles, or people. These types of accidents can result in serious injuries or fatalities and may occur for various reasons.

Due to the high speed and expansive cutting deck of zero-turn mowers, it can be difficult for operators to see obstacles in their path, such as rocks, tree stumps, or other forms of debris.

To reduce the risk of collisions and other accidents, always be aware of your surroundings and operate the mower at a safe speed.

When operating near roads or other areas with traffic, be cautious and keep a safe distance from other vehicles. Additionally, make sure that children and pets are kept at a safe distance from the mower while it is in use.

Ejection accidents

Another potential danger associated with zero-turn riding lawnmowers (even those with a rollover protection system) is the risk of ejection from the mower. Ejection can occur if the operator is thrown from the mower due to sudden stops, collisions, or rollovers.

Ejection can result in serious injuries or fatalities, particularly if the operator is not wearing appropriate safety gear or if they are thrown onto a hard surface.

Always wearing appropriate safety gear, including a helmet, eye protection, and sturdy closed-toe shoes, is essential to reduce the risk of ejection from the mower.

Additionally, operators should ensure that the mower is in good working order before use and that all safety features, such as seat belts and roll bars, are correctly installed and in working condition.

Operating the mower safely and avoiding sudden stops or turns that could throw the operator off it is also essential. In addition, when working on uneven or sloped terrain, use caution and slow down to reduce the risk of tipping over or losing control of the mower.

Flying debris

One of the dangers associated with zero-turn mowers is the potential for flying debris. When mowing at high speeds, the mower blades can pick up rocks, sticks, and other debris and launch them into the air. This debris can cause serious injury to the operator or anyone in the surrounding area.

Always wear appropriate safety gear, including eye protection and sturdy shoes, to reduce the risk of flying debris.

Additionally, operators should ensure the mower is properly maintained, and the blades are sharp and balanced. Dull or unbalanced blades can cause more debris to be thrown into the air, increasing the risk of injury.

These risks are not unique to most zero-turn mowers, but the design and operation of these machines can amplify them. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of these dangers and take steps to mitigate the risks when using a zero-turn mower.

Cutting grass in the park

Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers: Factors That Contribute to Accidents

Several factors can cause accidents involving zero-turn mowers, including:

  • Operator error: Many accidents with the mower are caused by operator error, such as taking turns too sharply or driving too fast.
  • Inexperience: Inexperienced operators may not be familiar with the handling and operation of the mower, increasing the risk of accidents.
  • Terrain conditions: Uneven or sloped terrain can make the lawn mower more prone to rollovers or tip-overs, mainly if wet grass and the ground is damp or slippery.
  • Mechanical issues: A poorly maintained or malfunctioning mower can increase the risk of accidents, such as brake failure or engine stalls.
  • Environmental factors: Wind, rain, and other environmental factors can make it more difficult to operate this kind of mower safely, increasing the risk of accidents.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 17,000 injuries and 80 fatalities were associated with riding mowers and lawn tractors in the United States between 2015 and 2017.

While not all of these lawn maintenance accidents involved zero-turn mowers specifically, they serve as a reminder of the importance of taking safety precautions when operating any lawn mower.

Safety Tips to Reduce the Risk of Zero-Turn Mower Accidents

There are several steps that operators can take to reduce the risk of accidents that make zero-turn mowers dangerous, including:

Read the Manual

Before you operate a zero-turn lawnmower, read the owner’s manual carefully to familiarize yourself with the machine’s features and operation.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Protective Gear

Wear protective equipment like close-toed shoes, long pants, eye protection, and hearing protection when operating ride-on mowers.

Inspect the Zero-Turn Lawn Mower Before Use

Check the mower’s tires, blades, brakes, and other components before each use to ensure they are in good working order.

Choose the Right Terrain

Avoid handling a zero-turn mower on steep slopes, wet lawns, wet grass or slippery surfaces, or uneven ground.

Use Caution When Turning

Slow down and use caution when making turns, particularly on hills or uneven terrain.

Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

Watch for obstacles, bystanders, and other hazards while operating a zero-turn mower.

Keep Children and Pets Away

Ensure to keep children and pets safe from the mower while it is in use.

Following these guidelines, operators can reduce the risk of accidents when using a zero-turn mower. However, it’s important to remember that accidents can still occur despite taking all possible precautions.

If you are using a zero-turn mower in an accident, seek medical attention immediately and report the incident to the appropriate authorities.


Electric and gas-powered lawnmowers are powerful machines that can make lawn care faster and more efficient.

However, they also pose significant risks to operators and bystanders if not used properly. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of the dangers associated with zero-turn mowers and take steps to mitigate the risks when using them.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions, you can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Ensure you wear protective gear and take caution when operating a zero-turn mower. Remember to inspect your mower before each use, choose suitable terrain, and stay aware of your surroundings.

Ultimately, choosing a zero-turn mower is a trade-off between speed and safety. Weigh the benefits against the risks, so you can decide whether a zero-turn mower is suitable for your lawn care needs.

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Michael Harrison

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