Stay Safe: Amusement Ride Safety and Accident Statistics

Riding an amusement ride is one of the safest recreational activities. The National Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that over 270 million people visit American amusement parks each year. An average of 7,000 of these people are treated in emergency rooms for injuries they sustained in amusement ride accidents. Considering the thousands of amusement rides that occupy American theme parks and the number of cycles each one completes without incident, this number is truly phenomenal. More amazing is the fact that the number of deaths that have occurred over the last twenty-five years is less than half of this number.

Because the leading cause of accidents is rider misconduct, these numbers could be reduced even further if people's awareness of ride safety was heightened. Here are some guidelines that will help to ensure a safe day at the park:

Some state inspections departments can inform you of a park's safety record. If a park has a consistency of accidents that occur due to structural or maintenance failure, or operator error, then you might consider visiting another park.

Take note of a park's general appearance. If the park's grounds are not well-maintained, it is usually an accurate reflection of how well-maintained its rides are. Also, see that there is an adequate number of security officers or policemen roaming about the park. Make sure that alcohol is not allowed to be consumed on the midway, and that teenage gangs are adequately and appropriately monitored.

All major rides have some kind of age, weight, or height restriction. Upon entering the park or boarding a ride, you will see restriction and/or warning signs -- do not ignore them. Usually, children under a certain height or age cannot ride without a parent. In some cases, people with certain medical conditions are warned not to ride. In any case, be aware of restrictions and heed warnings.

Each ride has at least one ride operator. It is important to follow the instructions that operators may give upon the start or stop of a ride. Before boarding a ride, perhaps while waiting in line, take note of how a ride operator conducts himself. During the entire duration of any ride, the operator should be paying exclusive and careful attention to the ride and its riders. Make sure that he is not distracted. If he is talking to a fellow employee or reading a book, it could be an indication that he is not paying attention. He should not allow riders to act unruly. Also, the operator should not be "showing off" in any way. And if the operator looks like he's in another world, he probably is. Operators should never be operating more than one ride at one time. They must be at least 16 years of age. An operator should never leave a ride's control panels to be operated by anyone other than himself. Alert a park supervisor if you notice an operator acting irresponsibly.

If a ride is poorly lit, rusty, or cluttered with litter, you might want to pass it by. Also, if you see that there some cars are not being used on a particular ride, then do not ride the ride. Parks should not operate a ride if it is not completely operational. Remember that when you see yellow or orange tape tied around safety bars, seats, or other parts of a ride, it means that some parts of the ride are broken or unsafe. Rides should at least appear as if they are well-maintained. If a park does not keep up the external appearance of its rides, who knows what kind of internal maintenance its rides are getting.

If you see other riders conducting themselves unruly, alert the ride operator. If the operator fails to address the situation, contact a park supervisor. This is a serious issue.

Before allowing a child to board a ride, parents should use their own judgment as to whether or not the ride is appropriate for him. If a child is afraid, do not force him to ride. Never assume that your child will enjoy a ride because you do, or that he won't be afraid because you will be riding with him. Also, if you know that your child is incapable of handling a ride, do not let him board. Always check with the operator when you are unsure as to whether or not your child could handle a particular ride. While most rides can be stopped in mid-operation, others cannot, and if a child becomes too scared, he may attempt to exit the ride while it is moving. Most importantly, explain to your child the importance of following instructions. In anticipating a ride to begin, most children will not pay attention to the ride operator's instructions. Therefore, observe the ride yourself before your child boards, then explain to him how the ride works and what he should and shouldn't do.

Perhaps most importantly, make sure that you yourself act appropriately. Always use seat belts, lap bars or chains, and shoulder harnesses when they are provided. Eluding safety harnesses and standing up on rides are the leading causes of injuries and deaths. Do not act in any way that would cause the ride to deviate from its normal course of operation. Never rock cars, especially on rides like Ferris Wheels, Log Flumes, and Skyrides. Always keep your hands, legs, and arms inside your car. Never attempt to board a ride when it is moving or to exit a ride before it comes to a complete stop.

Again, riding an amusement ride is one of the safest recreational activities. This is a fact. The number of people who are injured from drinking glasses is seventeen times that of the number of people injured on amusement rides. Some of the other more "dangerous" activities are: mowing a lawn, riding a skateboard, riding a bike, and playing billiards. All of these activities are statistically more dangerous than riding an amusement ride. Furthermore, because of the fact that rider misbehavior is the leading cause of accidents, the probability of an accident drops dramatically when a rider is safety-conscious. The more aware a rider is of safety, the less accidents there are, and the less accidents there are, the happier everyone is.

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