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Amusement Parks – Thrillers or Killers?

Last week a 4 year old boy drowned at an amusement park in Santa Clara, California.  A teenage girl was killed in Wisconsin after falling 40 – 50 ft from a bungee-jumping ride.  And several weeks ago a 13-year old girl had her ankles severed off at a Six Flags in Kentucky.  What’s going on???

A reporter from the local news station called me to quote on this recent spate of accidents so I started doing some research on the regulations surrounding amusement park rides.   I was horrified!

According to SafeParks, a non-profit organization that works to prevent amusement park industries, amusement park rides are the only products marketed to children that are exempt from all federal safety oversight. Child safety features mandated for other vehicles and products used by children (e.g., harnesses and lap belts in cars, strollers, bike trailers, etc.) are not required on amusement rides used by young children.  Additionally, there are no standardized criteria for minimum height limits or containment systems for amusement rides approved for use by young children.

My son is now getting to the age where he wants to ride on every ride there is.  He’s large for his age but these facts still make me reconsider which rides I’ll allow him to go on.  And my middle daughter is extremely petite.  I can’t even imagine letting her go on any rides until she’s much older. 

What’s the answer?  As SafeParks proposes, national standards should be passed as federal legislation. As with any other vehicle that a child rides in, proper restraining systems should be in place.  But it’s also up to us as parents to be a little more mindful of the rides we allow our children to go on.  Our kids need to be taught never to stand up in a ride – even if they’re scared they need to wait until the ride is over.   

Were you aware of the lack of oversight for amusement park rides?  Does this concern you as much as it does me?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and any  amusement park incidents that have happened to your family.  The more we make parents aware of this, the more likely we can make a trip to the carnival a fun and safe outing!



  1. I am outraged that these amusement ride companies are not required to uphold a national standard for safety! How many children have to die before changes are made? I agree, as parents we need to teach our children to NEVER stand up while on a ride and we need to teach them what to do if they PANIC while on a ride. Many children panic and their first instinct is to ESCAPE from the ride and that has deadly consequences! Might we teach our riders how to be good riders and teach children how to deal with panic: Close your eyes, put your head down, hold tight and try to relax until the ride is over!
    I would be interested in knowing what amusement ride companies your moms deem as safe?

  2. Alison, Thank you for making me aware of this. I just assumed that there were safety standards that were adhered to. At many amusement parks, especially older ones, I’ve noticed some rides seem very dangerous and in need of maintainence. I just assumed that they would be inspected regularly and kept safe since so many lives are at risk. These stories are truly every parent’s nightmare and are heartbreaking. What else can we do to help publicize this?

  3. Thanks so much for educating me. We make trips all summer long to an amusement park near us, and I just presumed that they had done their homework on safety regulations. As usual, the job falls into the mom’s hands.
    I had a recent scare when my daughter and her friend were stuck on a roller coaster (mid hill) for several minutes. The reason?? children were PLAYING on the tracks! How terrifying! We need to keep a keen eye on these rides (a lot of the maintenance is done by teens, which can be a bit disconcerting as well), and also teach our children safety precautions. Thanks again, Safety Mom, you’re awesome! Keep up the good work.

  4. It’s important that we spread the word to all parents and caregivers that amusement park rides can be hazardous and it’s up to us to use our best judgement when deciding what rides we allow our children to ride.

  5. IAAPA Communications Team

    July 20, 2007
    Dear Safety Mom,
    As the representative of amusement parks and attractions worldwide, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), would like to provide perspective on the issue of amusement park ride safety.
    Safety is a top priority in the amusement park and attractions industry. Fundamental safety measures have been in place in the industry for decades. In addition to a thorough set of internal mechanical, electrical, design, and operational safety checks and standards, U.S. fixed-site amusement rides are subject to one or more layers of independent examination, including state and local government, insurance companies, and private safety firms.
    Accidents, while highly publicized, are very rare. More than 300 million people visit theme parks and safely enjoy 1.8 billion rides in the United States each year. The chance of being injured seriously on a theme park ride is 1 in 9 million. Only 10 percent of injuries occur on children’s rides.
    However, when these extremely rare incidents occur, we take them very seriously. Each is thoroughly investigated by the park operator, government officials, and if appropriate, the ride manufacturer.
    We agree that one of the most important steps families can take to ensure their safety is to abide by ALL of the ride’s rules and rider guidelines:
    • Obey listed age, height, weight, and health restrictions.
    • 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 safety equipment provided and never attempt to wriggle free of restraints or other safety devices.
    • Parents with young children should make sure that their children can understand safe and appropriate ride behavior.
    • Never force 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.
    Families should rest assured that visiting an amusement park is one of the safest ways they can spend quality time with their loved ones.
    International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)

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