Hayrides are a popular part of Halloween and other fall events, but they are also becoming a source of danger for riders. Hayride operators are under increasing scrutiny as more accidents are occurring with this type of open vehicle ride. Hayrides are often positioned on a flatbed trailer or wagon that is then towed by a tractor, with little control over the speed and direction. They could also be towed by a jeep or truck, where the weight of the trailer is greater than the vehicle’s towing capacity.
Who is Responsible for Hayride Safety?
In many cases, hayrides are organized informally by community groups or private parties for some event or celebration. For this reason, it is difficult to find civil or criminal liability when an accident does occur. However, the wave of accidents is catching the attention of lawmakers who see a need for more safety oversight of this popular amusement ride.
There is not much in the way of federal regulation or safety standards for hayrides. The same is true at the state level where hayrides enjoy exemption from some laws. Rhode Island is the only state that requires a permit for hayrides. Some states including Texas don’t normally allow passengers to ride in a flatbed truck, but they are allowed if part of a hayride. Other states specifically exempt hayrides from seatbelt laws that apply in any other situation. Unlike amusement parks, hayrides don’t typically require licensing or inspections.
Some examples of hayride accidents include:
There may be criminal or civil remedies available for injured parties in hayrides, but a lack of agreed to standards could make it difficult to prove fault. For example, a drunk tractor operator that caused an accident in Michigan was charged with reckless driving, but there was no other action brought for damages. Since many of these hayrides take place on private ranch or farmland, there is no duty to report accidents when they occur. The future may bring more lawsuits or criminal charges in hayride accidents, but for now participants bear all of the risk.
As long as these types of rides remain popular there will be some danger for passengers. Staying safe on a hayride means taking precautions similar to amusement park rides such as: