By William Bill Hurst
November 2, 2011 at the State Fair in Louisiana a 3 year old boy suffered serious critical injuries when a kiddie ride accidentally started while the ride operator was unloading passengers. The child was left pinned for 20 minutes while workers used the jaw of life to free him. He was seriously injured. October 31, 2011 there was a collision between two monorails at the Disney resort in Florida. The accident and injuries to the occupants was caused by the failure of the monorail manager to verify the position of a switch. There were several serious injuries.
On October 24, 2011 a 31 year old woman suffered a fatal fall from a tiptop ride in Dublin Ireland. She was ejected from her bucket seat and landed on the metal steps leading to the platform. She died instantly. August 30, 2011 at Bottoms Amusement Park in Berkshire, England, an amusement park ride called a Surf Rider malfunctioned and left seven riders hospitalized. A gondola attached to one end of the arm remained horizontal throughout the ride keeping the passengers upright and the gondola crashed in a vertical position. Firefighters had to use a hydraulic platform and ropes to extract all 22 riders who were trapped and injured. Many of these accidents and those mentioned above have been catalogued by RideAccidents.com, which is a non-profit research and education site which focus on Amusement Park Safety.
The list of amusement park accidents around the world is lengthy. The site has been established to bring awareness to the risks associated with rides. The public relies upon the parks and fairs to ensure the rides are safe for the public. Behind the scenes there are several organizations that also work to provide safe and enjoyable visits for guests at the amusement parks. There are State laws that require the states to certified rides and provide inspectors to police the facilities. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) have worked together to establish a nationwide amusement ride injury reporting system for all facilities that have permanent amusement rides in the United States. These organizations have; for example (in 2009) determined there were approximately 280,000,000 guests in U.S. amusement park facilities and enjoyed 1.7 billion rides. Only 65 of these personal injuries were reported as serious.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission also tracks injuries related to amusement rides. They have established charts and tables summarizing ride related injuries for the years 1997 to 2006 which include the victim’s age and medical diagnosis as well as a description of the incident. In 2006 this organization estimated that amusement rides caused 8,800 injuries and most of these involved “gokarts”.
Although the statistical odds of injury apparently are low the consequences of an accident can be catastrophic, including death. Some amusement experiences are more risky than others. Consumers should be very careful in choosing rides particularly for children. If the ride simply looks poorly maintained or the operator appears distracted or the child is not well restrained, don’t allow the child to board the ride. Clearly those seeking to enjoy an amusement park ride or involve their children in a ride can significantly reduce the risk of injury to themselves and other riders by simply paying attention and following the rules and not “horsing around”. One must be realistic and use common sense when choosing rides for small children; and if you or your child have a condition, limitation, or disability you need to take the time to really consider whether the amusement ride is worth it.
Here are 10 tips to making your day at the amusement park safer for your children:
1. 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, many safety devices used on children’s amusement rides often aren’t well designed to keep young children in their seats. You should not rely on lap bars and seat belts to restrain children! Solid metal lap bars only fit closely against the largest passenger in the car often leaving young children with room to slide around and out. Shockingly, there are no mandatory federal standards for the design of amusement rides and their safety devices. Amusement rides are neither childproof nor often child-safe! Watch the children using amusement rides before you decide to put your child on the ride to see how they get along and are protected. After observation, use your common sense judgment to determine if the ride is safe for your children. Do not rely on a ride attendant’s representative that the ride is safe for your child. Judge for yourself! If you have any doubt, Don’t ride.
2. Discuss the ride with your child. Read warnings out loud to your child and discuss each warning. Tell your child that even if the ride stops, he/she can not attempt to get off the rude until the ride attendant says it is time. Tell to your child that if the ride gets scary, do not attempt to get off no matter what is happening. It is too dangersous. Explain that rides might seem scary, but they are safe as long as the riders stay seated and keep their hands, and hold on tight. Let your child know how to “behave” and set a good “example”.
3. Always obey height, age, and weight restrictions. If your child does not meet the necessary requirements, do not attempt to “sneak” them on the ride. These restrictions are there for a reason! The manufacturer of the amusement ride take into account the forces exerted by the ride and the maturity required to ride safely. A child who does not meet the ride requirements may not be physically or mentally able to stay safety seated. Also keep in mind that manufacturers base their guidelines on height/weight ratios of children based on the average child. So for example, children who are tall for their age may not be mentally ready for a certain ride. The bottom line is if you cannot count on your child to stay seated with hands and feet inside, don’t let your child on the ride!
4. Don’t put children on rides that could scare them. Most children who get scared try to “run” and may try to “get off” the ride. Children are hurt every year becoming afraid and try to exit a ride while it is still moving. Don’t put a crying child on a ride. Ared child will get hurt more often than those who are calm.
5. Follow any special instructions about seating procedures. Spinning rides sometimes require that smaller riders sit on the inside (closest to the center pole) to avoid being “smashed” by the bigger riders as the spinning force increases. Thus, small children should be seated away from open sides. If you ignore these instructions and reposition your child after the child has been seated , you may be endangering your children.
6. Never seat your child in your lap on rides. If your child is on your lap and the safety bar is above the child’s lap, that position could cause the bar or belt to put too much pressure on your child’s small body. If the ride doesn’t have restraints and the ride takes an unexpected turn, your child could slip out of your hands and out of the ride.
7. Stay out of the sun. Statistics show that heatstroke and exhaustion out number all other injuries put together. Stay hydrated and remember alcohol dehydrates. Use sunblock and wear comfortable shoes.
8. Teach your kids what to do if they get separated from you. Have each child wear an ID (such as an ID bracelet, or personalized tag) that includes your cell number so that a security can call with the location of your child if lost. Play the “What if…” game with your children so they know to stop a security guard if they get separated. If you can afford it, consider a child locator or tracking device.
9. Don’t Over Do It: If you have eaten a large meal or consumed alcohol, you should consider waiting an hour before riding a ride that spins. Otherwise, you may not only feel sick, but also have an “bad” experience. Most people do better at amusement parks eating and drinking small amounts (plus lots of water) throughout the day.
10. Focus on your children: Do not leave your children on their own while you play games and ride rides. If your children are old enough to be on their own you should stay in contact by meeting at designated places and times to see how and what they are doing. You should have fun but be responsible. Pace yourself.
At least 44 States have regulations requiring inspection and safety enforcement. In Indiana see: https://www.in.gov/legislative/iac/T06850/A00010.PDF?
For other states see https://amusementsafety.org/states_beta.asp. The U. S. Consumer producer Safety Commission is authorized to investigate accidents and work with manufacturers to correct defects in carnival rides. The State and Federal government are responsible for safety for rides in the United States. Full burden regulatory saftey for permanent rides fall to the State government.
We have successfully represented clients injured at amusement parks, carnivals, and fairs. If you or a member of your family has been injured in an amusement park fall or carnival contact the the Indianapolis personal injury lawyers at Hurst Limontes LLC for a free consultation. We would be happy to talk to you for free. You may call us at (800) 636-0808. We do not charge a fee unless we win your case.