5 Dangers of Zero Turn Mowers: How To Avoid Them + Safety Tips

Using a zero-turn mower for residential or commercial applications can make your work easier while keeping you safe. Most lawn enthusiasts prefer them for their speed, maneuverability, and efficiency.

However, zero-turn mowers are known to create safety hazards if operated without proper caution. The dangers of zero turn mowers are overturning, sliding on slopes, difficulty controlling at high speeds, running over objects, and accidental cuts.

To ensure your safety while riding one of these mowers, it’s a good idea to be aware of their dangers. This article looks into the hazards of zero-turn mowers and how you should avoid them. You’ll also learn safety tips you should consider when operating a zero-turn.

Dangers of Zero Turn Mowers

Zero turn mowers account for many serious injuries resulting from lawn mowing. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers, nearly 6,400 people get injured when using lawnmowers annually. Most of these injuries require hospitalization and surgery.

So, are zero turn mowers dangerous? Below we’ll provide the common dangers associated with these mowers to help you answer this question.


Overturning is a common danger of zero turn mowers. While these mowers maneuver quickly, their narrow wheelbase and smaller-sized deck can cause them to overturn easily. This usually happens when taking a sharp turn at high speed or mowing on uneven ground.

When zero-turn mowers overturn, they can cause severe injuries to the users and those nearby. For example, you can fall off your seat and get crushed.

Sliding on Slopes

While zero-turn mowers work best in irregularly-shaped yards, they are not ideal for mowing slopes. Typically, these mowers can be dangerous when tackling slopes above 15 degrees. They have a unique design that causes poor traction on the ground. Traction issues are common when turning the mower left or right on steep hills.

So, if you’re riding uphill or downhill, a small turn might cause the mower to slide beyond your control. The mower can also hit an object when sliding down the hill and tip over, leading to severe injuries.

Difficult To Control in High Speed

High speed is one of the reasons most lawn care enthusiasts prefer using zero-turn mowers. You can ride your zero turn at a speed of 15mph, making it a perfect option for tackling larger lawns. However, riding your mower at high speed can make it difficult to control.

The mower’s front wheels rotate in different directions. If you turn one wheel when riding at 15mph, the machine can lose traction, slide, and tip over. Your mower may also run into objects or people and cause injuries.

Accidental Cuts

Zero-turn mowers have powerful rotating blades that spin at high speed. These blades are sharp and can cause deep cuts if you accidentally get closer to them. If you lose control of your mower, it can run into people and pets, cutting them with powerful blades.

Additionally, rotating blades can hit debris such as stones and sharp objects and send them flying toward you. If you don’t have protective gear, the sharp debris can tear off your skin, resulting in a wound.

Running Over Victims

In the case of an accident, zero-turn mowers can run over victims who fall on the ground. For example, if your mower slides or runs into an object, it can eject you from the seat, sending you to the ground. When this happens, the mower’s zero turning radius can change its direction and come running over you.

Similarly, if you lose control of your zero-turn, it can run over people and pets nearby. Its weight and rotating blades can cause serious injuries or death to victims underneath it.

Must-have Safety Features In Zero Turn Mowers

Extra caution and experience can help you ride these zero-turns safely. But if you’re a beginner, installing various safety features can help you avert the dangers of zero turn mowers. So, what safety features should you install in your zero turn mower?

Rollover Protection System (ROPS): Most zero turn mowers come with a ROPS from the manufacturer. If yours doesn’t have this system, consider installing it. The ROPS comes in handy in the event of an overturn. It prevents you from getting crushed or stuck when the mower rolls over. For the ROPS to work effectively, you must use the seat belt.

Deadman’s Switch: A deadman’s switch installed inside the mower’s seat is a lifesaver if the operator falls from the chair. This switch automatically turns the engine off and halts the rotating blades right after leaving the seat.

Safety Shield: You can install a safety shield around blades and discharge chute to protect yourself and those nearby against flying debris. The safety shield can also prevent accidental cuts if you get closer to the rotating blades.

Warning Labels: Installing warning labels can be a great way to inform beginners of any parts within the mower that can cause injuries. It can also remind them to remain seated while operating the mower.

Safety Tips for Riding Zero Turn Mowers

After installing these safety features, apply the following safety tips when operating your zero-turn mower.

Avoid high-risk surfaces. Common high-risk surfaces you should avoid are steep slopes above 15 degrees, retaining walls, wet and muddy areas, and unstable grounds. If you’re driving on such surfaces, you will likely lose control of the zero-turn mower.

Inspect your garden to ensure the surface is flat, stable, and dry. Also, learn how to operate your zero-turn on tricky surfaces like sand.

Avoid driving the mower across the slopes. Operating your zero turn on hills can be dangerous if you don’t know how to do it. Move it up and down but not across to prevent slides and tip-overs.

Don’t change direction on steep slopes. One of the main causes of zero turn mowers’ dangers is swiftly changing direction on steep slopes. A slight change in direction when moving up or down a hill can result in losing control of the machine. If you turn the mower left or right, it can slide and overturn. Wait until you’re on a flat surface to change direction.

Inspect your lawn before mowing. The best way to avoid some dangers of zero turn mowers is to inspect the yard you’re mowing. This can help you clear obstacles such as rocks, tree stems, and other debris.

Wear a seat belt. The seat belt should prevent you from falling off after running into objects or taking a sharp turn. In the event of an overturn, the seat belt and ROPS can protect you from getting crushed.

Never drive too fast. While it’s possible to drive your zero turn mower at up to 15 mph, that speed can be too high on rugged or steep terrain. Driving too fast is dangerous as it’s difficult to control the mower. Your mower might run into objects, people, or pets and cause severe injuries. Driving too fast won’t allow the mower to stop instantly in case of emergencies.

Ensure there are no people or pets around when mowing. Children or pets can run toward the mower and expose them to the risk of being hit or run over. It’s also advisable to ensure no one is around because you can lose control of the mower and run into them. Additionally, the rotating blades can throw stones and sharp objects at anyone around, causing injuries.

Don protective equipment while riding. Protective equipment such as gloves, closed-toe shoes, long sleeves, and long pants can protect you from accidental cuts. However, avoid loose clothing as it can get caught in the machine’s moving parts resulting in injury.

If you’ve not installed a safety shield on your mower, wear safety glasses to prevent flying debris from getting to the eyes. Since your gas-powered zero turn mower can emit a noise level above 85 decibels, it’s advisable to wear hearing protection. This is a requirement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Don’t ride the mower with a child or pet on board. Some landscapers might be tempted to allow kids or pets to sit on their laps when mowing. This is dangerous as children and pets can move the control levers or touch various moving parts. If you have a child or pet, keep them indoors while operating your zero-turn mower.

Operate your mower during the day. Driving your zero-turn mower during the day allows you to see clearly and fully control the machine. It’s easy to see and avoid ditches, puddles, rocks, tree stems, and slopes that can cause accidents. Rain, fog, and wind can reduce visibility during the day. Wait until the weather is calm or the sky is blue to operate your mower.

Disengage the rotating blades when they’re not in use. Sometimes you’ll need to disembark your mower to inspect the wheels, remove obstructions or take a rest. Before getting off the machine, remember to disengage the rotating blades. Allowing the blades to continue rotating can result in cuts if you accidentally get closer to them.

Avoid drugs and alcohol when operating your mower. Driving a zero-turn mower high on drugs can lead to a loss of consciousness, resulting in a fatal accident.

Study all the features of your mower. If you’re a beginner, study your zero-turn mower to understand where to locate and use various features. You can read the manual to learn how to use the machine and various safety concerns.

Final Thoughts

Zero-turn mowers can be a reliable machine for mowing any yard. However, these mowers can be dangerous if not handled properly. Thankfully, you can minimize the dangers of zero turn mowers by observing the given safety tips and precautions.