The biggest threat to the health and safety of most children and adolescents is a motor vehicle accident.

But the one million American children and teens living or working on farms in the U.S. face an additional danger — the tractors in their own backyards.

Tractors are deadly in the South. Thirty percent of farm-related deaths and 40 percent of youth injuries nationwide occur in 14 Southern states.

Now, University of Georgia researchers seeking ways to effectively train youth on how to safely use farm equipment have identified a persuasive tool: their farmer fathers.

The researchers found that youth were more likely to experience positive changes in attitudes, beliefs and behaviors when taught by their fathers. They also observed changes in the way the primary farmers approached farm safety.

Zolinda Stoneman, director of the UGA Institute on Human Development and Disability, along with other UGA researchers, developed and tested an educational program called AgTeen to teach farm safety to families.

While children have long been prohibited from working with dangerous equipment in factories in the U.S., children continue to work on farms for economic and traditional reasons. And "they are around dangerous equipment every day on family farms," Stoneman said.

"Our main premise was ‘What happens to youth outcomes when we involve the primary farmer?' which in most cases is the father," said Hamida Jinnah-Ghelani, a research scientist at IHDD who coordinated the AgTeen research project. "Youth learn about farming mainly from their fathers and grandfathers."

The randomized, controlled study split youth participants aged 10 to 19 years from counties across Georgia into three groups to compare changes in their attitudes and outcomes.

One group was taught the AgTeen curriculum by the primary farmer, who was almost always the father, while the second group was taught the curriculum by experienced farmers employed as AgTeen staff. The control group received the information after the study.