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Recent Accidents Raise Concerns Regarding Amusement Park Safety

Roller coaster and water slides are synonymous with summer. However, a string of tragic accidents has reignited the debate regarding whether amusement parks should be more tightly regulated.

Most recently, a three-year-old Pennsylvania boy was hurt after he fell from a wooden roller coaster that malfunctioned. Earlier this month, girl in Tennessee suffered a serious head injury when she fell nearly 40 feet from a Ferris wheel car. In Kansas, a 10-year-old boy was killed riding a 168-foot waterslide in Kansas.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), 37,300 people were taken to the emergency room in 2015 for treatment of theme park ride-related injuries. There have also been 25 deaths related to amusement ride accidents and four deaths involving water slides since 2010.

To help prevent amusement park injuries, many are calling for national safety standards. "There's kind of this inherent assumption that it's safe," said Tracy Mehan, a researcher at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "Because there are no national regulations, it varies dramatically as to what state and local organizations consider safe."

Amusement parks are not currently subject to federal oversight. Rather, their operations are governed by state law. Only 44 states provide oversight for theme parks under their jurisdiction, and regulations vary significantly from state to state. Most concerning, many states do not conduct regular safety inspections. For instance, many large theme parks, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, are not subject to state inspections.

“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 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.”

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a California amusement park accident caused by someone else’s negligence, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.