Amusement Park Safety
American’s love their 400 water, amusement and theme parks – Walt Disney World, Universal Studio, Busch Gardens, Cedar Point, SeaWorld, Legoland, Six Flags, Knotts Berry Farm, and Schlitterbahn to name a few, not to mention the thousands of carnivals and fairs throughout the country. More than 330 million people visit theme parks and 85 million visit water parks each year for the attractions and rides.
Theme Parks Accidents
According to a Today Show report, while rides in theme parks are generally safe and accidents are rare, serious injuries and even death can occur. In 2014, there were more than 11,000 injuries reported. This did not include water or traveling parks data or any close calls. USA Today reported that A 2013 study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a pediatric health care and research center, found that from 1990 to 2010, 92,885 children under 18 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for amusement ride-related injuries – or an average of 4,423 per year. More than 70% of those injuries were in the summer months of May through September, for an average of 20 injuries per day.
Unfortunately, over the past week, a young boy died while riding Verrückt, the world’s tallest water slide at the Kansas waterpark, the Schlitterbahn. While the incident is still under investigation, it is believed he died of a fatal head injury. Another accident occurred at the Greene County Fair in Tennessee. The Ferris wheel’s cabin tipped over sending three children to the ground – 35-45 feet. The youngest, a six-year-old, suffered a traumatic brain injury. The two other children, ages 10 and 16 remain in the hospital with injuries, but in stable condition. Preliminary findings by inspectors showed there were no seatbelts on the ride and that mechanical failure appears to be the cause of the accident.
So who Makes Sure Amusement Park Rides are Safe?
What consumers do not know is that there is very little government oversight and regulation as a result of the 1981 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The Federal Government, specifically the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), is responsible for portable rides at venues like fairs and carnivals. While the CPSC sets safety standards, most of the implementation and regulation falls on states and local agencies.
In Florida, the Department of Agriculture is responsible for carnivals and small parks only. Rides at large theme parks are exempt.
A 2013 comprehensive study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital on amusement-ride injuries, found that head and neck injuries were the most common followed by arms, face, and legs. Soft-tissue injuries were also the most common, followed by strains and sprains, cuts and broken bones.
How to Stay Safe at Amusement & Theme Parks
Just because a ride has been inspected does not guarantee it is being operated safely. Saferparks.org provides numerous helpful safety tip videos and materials for consumers. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attraction (IAAPA) has also created a list of amusement ride safety tips for guest use:
- Obey listed age, height, weight, and health restrictions.
- Observe all posted ride safety rules, and follow all verbal instructions given by ride operators or provided by recorded announcements.
- Keep hands, arms, legs and feet inside the ride at all times.
- Secure all loose articles, including wallets, change, sunglasses, cell phones, and hats.
- Do not board a ride impaired.
- Remain seated in the ride until it comes to a complete stop and you are instructed to exit.
- Always use safety equipment provided and never attempt to wriggle free of or loosen restraints or other safety devices.
- Parents should make sure their children can understand and follow safe and appropriate ride behavior.
- Never force anyone, especially children, to ride attractions they don’t want to ride.
- If you see any unsafe behavior or condition on a ride, report it to a supervisor or manager immediately.
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Fair Rides Inspections
- Florida Statutes – Chapter 616 Public Fairs and Expos
- Florida Statutes – Chapter 546 Amusement Facilities
- Florida Administrative Code and Resister – Chapter 5J-18
- Saferparks – U.S. Federal and State Amusement Ride Regulation