Earlier this month, two people were injured at California's Great America
amusement park when a roller coaster struck a park employee. While the
cause of the accident is still under investigation, the incident highlights
the importance of amusement park safety.
While amusement accidents are relatively rare, they do occur. In fact,
four deaths have occurred at Great America since it opened in 1976. In
1999, a 12-year-old Sunnyvale boy fell to his death from the Drop Zone
Given the potential risks, many are surprised to discover that there are
currently no federal regulations governing amusement park rides. While
the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) oversees the safety of carnival
rides transported from one location to another, it is not authorized to
police fixed-site amusement rides. Oversight is left to the states, insurance
companies, or the parks themselves.
“Roller coasters that hurtle riders at extreme speeds along precipitous
drops should not be exempt from federal safety oversight,” said
Senator Edward J. Markey, who has unsuccessfully pushed for stricter federal
regulations. “A baby stroller is subject to tougher federal regulation
than a roller coaster carrying a child in excess of 100 miles per hour.
This is a mistake.”
Under Sen. Markey’s proposed legislation, the CPSC would be authorized
to inspect the country's 400 "fixed site" amusement parks
and collect data of the frequency and causes of accidents. According to
a recent study, more than 93,000 children under 18 were
treated in emergency rooms for amusement-park-related injuries between 1990 and 2010. The researchers also predicted that one child is
hospitalized once every three days in the summer from an injury related
to an amusement park or carnival ride.
Given the risks, if your summer plans include a trip to a California amusement
park, we urge you to keep the following safety tips in mind:
Be aware of the safety equipment limitations. Ride manufacturers provide seat belts, lap bars, and other safety equipment
to reduce the risk of injury. However, as referenced above, many safety
devices used on children’s amusement rides aren’t designed
to keep young children in their seats. Thus, do not rely on lap bars and
seat belts to restrain children. After close observation, use common sense
judgment to determine if the ride is safe for your kids. If you have any
doubt, skip the ride.
Always obey minimum height, age, weight, and health restrictions. If your child does not meet the necessary requirements, do not attempt
to sneak them on the ride. The requirements are there for a reason—safety.
Ride manufacturers’ restrictions are supposed to take into account
the forces exerted by the ride and the intellectual maturity required
to ride safely. A child who does not meet the ride requirements may not
be physically or developmentally able to stay safely seated.
Follow any special instructions about seating order or loading. Spinning rides sometimes require that smaller riders sit on the inside
(closest to the center pole) to avoid being squished by bigger riders
as the centrifugal force increases. Thus, the amusement ride attendant
should position small children away from open sides for safety reasons.
If you decide to ignore explicit instructions or reposition riders after
the operator has seated your party, you may be endangering your children.
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a San Diego accident
caused by someone else’s negligence, don’t hesitate to
contacta San Diego personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.