Summer is in full swing. Many families will spend at least one day at an amusement park. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) estimates that the more than 400 amusement parks in the United States welcome at least 375 million guests annually. Park guests anticipate a day of fun and expect to leave unharmed. Visitors do not anticipate amusement park accidents.
Amusement park accidents can — and do occur—anywhere in the world. Last month, a 14-year-old girl suffered non-life-threatening injuries after falling from The Sky Ride at an upstate New York Six Flags Amusement Park, USA Today reported. The girl was dangling from the gondola 25 feet in the air when a brave park patron persuaded her to jump and caught her. Although the teenager made it safely off the ride, not all amusement park accidents end so well. Too often amusement park injuries can be deadly.
During summer 2016, a 10-year-old boy was killed at a Kansas Water park when he suffered neck injuries on what was named the world’s tallest waterside, according to USA Today.
Not all notable 2016 amusement ride accidents were fatal. Three Tennessee girls aged six to 10 were injured last summer when they fell out of a Ferris wheel at a county fair. Days later, USA Today reported that a three-year-old boy fell from a roller coaster in Western Pennsylvania’s Idlewild park.
The dangerous 2016 amusement park season was a lesson for legislators. Many states have bills pending that would improve amusement ride safety regulations. In response to the county fair Ferris wheel accident, Tennessee’s House of Representatives signed a bill to tighten regulations. Tennessee’s new regulations would increase inspections and allow state regulators to hire inspectors or continue to use third party groups. Ride operators would need to be at least 16 years and only run one ride at a time and be present while it runs. The new legislation would also allow injured riders to file an amusement ride injury lawsuit against the owners and operators.
Kansas responded to the deadly water park accident with stricter inspection requirements and increased oversight, KansasCity.com reported.
After the Idlewild incident, Pennsylvania regulators outlined safety steps that the park was required to take, according to Times Leader. PA ordered Idlewild to install manufacturer-approved secondary passenger restraints on the ride in question, such as seat belts. Inspection by an engineer to review structural, construction, and design requirements were also recommended, along with the adoption of a minimum height requirement for new roller-coasters. The state also recommended changes to operator training and encouraged other parks to follow the same recommendations.
More than four thousand children are rushed to emergency rooms every year because of amusement park injuries, WWLP reported. That’s an average of 20 children per day between May and September. Lawmakers and parents hope that state regulations will lower this number. If enforced, stricter amusement ride regulations could prevent the number of injuries –fatal and non-fatal — caused by amusement park accidents.