LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Tractor rollover crashes during farm work killed one Kentucky farmer last year, according to figures compiled by the University of Kentucky.
It was the lowest tractor rollover death toll in the state in recent memory, according to figures compiled by the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program at UK.
The number of deaths has continued to decrease since the mid-1990s, when tractor rollover deaths across the state were running into double digits each year.
"To have had just one fatality reported last year, I think that's tremendous news, particularly when you think back to where we were just a few years ago," said Larry Piercy, a UK agricultural extension specialist who has been working on farm safety programs for more than 30 years. "It's been a long, slow struggle, and we still have a long way to go. But we have made some progress."
Tractor rollovers traditionally have been a leading cause of farm deaths. Kentucky led the nation in 1994 with 28 tractor-related fatalities - 23 were caused by rollovers.
Henry Cole, a professor of preventive medicine at UK who has worked on traffic safety for years, questioned the accuracy of the single fatality figure and suggested that some deaths might have gone uncounted.
"I know of cases in past years where there was a fatal overturn and it was never reported," Cole said. "But there's no question that the number of deaths has gone down."
The UK program monitors only tractor rollovers that occur while farm work actually is being done, according to Terry Bunn, an assistant professor at the university's Injury Prevention and Research Center.
"Looking at our list, I can confidently say that of those farmers who were working, we had only one rollover fatality last year," she said.
Safety officials think one of the main factors behind the decrease in fatal accidents is that farmers are using better safety equipment, such as roll bars and seat belts. And there are fewer small farmers, experts say.
--- Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader
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