Have a Safe Ride

Amusement rides are as much a summer staple as fireflies and ice-cream sandwiches. The best rides are the scariest, but are they safe?
By: Dave Ungrady

Amusement rides are as much a summer staple as fireflies and ice-cream sandwiches. Every year hundreds of millions of people of all ages flock to parks, carnivals and fairs looking for a thrill. The best rides are the scariest, but are they safe?

Statistics show that amusement park rides are relatively safe. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) estimates the chance of someone incurring a serious injury on a ride is 1 in 9 million, and the chance of a fatal injury is 1 in 750 million.

When mishaps do occur -- as 2 did last week -- they attract attention. In Arlington, TX, a roller coaster was shut down after riders were stranded 14 stories high for 30 minutes and then forced to walk down a steep stairwell. A US Army veteran, who lost both legs in the Iraq War, was thrown from a roller coaster in upstate New York. The Consumer Protection Safety Commission compiled its latest report on amusement-ride related injuries and deaths in 2005. It estimates that an average of 4.4 deaths took place from rides each year from 1987 to 2002.

Rides at US amusement parks are regulated by states, not the federal government. The IAAPA claims that 43 out of 50 states regulate fixed amusement parks. The CPSC provides a list of state safety officials. For mobile amusement parks, such as county fairs, contact event organizers to find out how they regulate and ensure the safety of the rides.

The IAAPA suggests the following safety tips for any amusement or thrill ride:

Obey listed age, height, weight, and health restrictions.

Observe all posted ride safety rules.

Keep hands, arms, legs and feet inside the ride at all times.

Remain seated in the ride until it comes to a complete stop and you are instructed to exit.

Follow all verbal instructions given by ride operators or provided by recorded announcements.

Always use the safety equipment provided and never attempt to wriggle free of or loosen restraints or other safety devices.

Parents with young children should make sure that their children understand 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.

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