It Can Happen to You: Injured Teenage Safety Advocate Speaks Out

Life changed in a split second for Iowa farm girl, who'd previously shared tractor safety lessons.

Published on: Apr 18, 2008

In 2007, Kristi Ruth's life changed dramatically. She was a farm safety advocate who suddenly found herself an incident survivor.

After her uncle was killed in a rollover incident, Ruth and her brothers constructed a tractor rollover demonstration that they displayed at the Lucas County Fair to raise awareness about tractor safety. When she started back to school in the fall of 2006, her Ag teacher encouraged her to compete in an FFA prepared public speaking contest. She used her tractor safety background to compose a speech addressing the four most common tractor-related hazards: rollovers, runovers, roadway collisions, and the Power Take Off shaft. The judges awarded her a gold medal for her heartfelt presentation.

On February 18, 2007, Ruth was drilling postholes to construct a new head chute before calving season began when her arm got pulled into the PTO shaft of a posthole digger. In seconds, she had suffered debilitating injuries and nearly lost her arm. Doctors were able to save her limb but she struggles to complete every day tasks because of her limited range of mobility. Last summer, Ruth spoke at the 4-H County Fair and the Iowa State Fair and displayed the clothes she was wearing at the time of the incident to illustrate the unrelenting destruction caused by the spinning PTO.

New safety role

Recently, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, a non-profit organization located in Urbandale, Iowa, selected Ruth, a high school junior from Chariton, Iowa, to join their network of Youth Representatives and share her story to educate others about rural health and safety hazards.

"Teens often believe nothing bad will ever happen to them," says FS4JK's Tyler Vacha. "Kristi is able to draw upon her personal experience to educate her peers about the dangers associated with farming. She's living proof that even when you're cautious incidents can happen in a split second that will change the course of your life forever."

To invite Kristi Ruth to speak at your next safety event or to learn more about Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, call 1-800-423-5437 or visit