More than 370 million Americans are planning to visit an amusement park this summer. Another 500 million will be attending local carnivals or traveling fairs. While most guests walk away from the experience with a thrill and smile, thousands could be visiting the emergency room to treat amusement park-related injuries.
The Hidden Data on Amusement Park Injuries
Organizations who promote amusement park safety continue to encourage visitors that injuries sustained from rides are slim and far between. According to the International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions (I.A.A.P.A.), there are over 1.7 billion rides to experience at over 400 fixed facilities in North America, with only a 1 in 18 million chance of becoming injured.
However, researchers from other safety organizations have found significant flaws in how amusement park injuries are measured and recorded. These deficits may be leading to tens of thousands of unreported injuries and unaddressed safety issues with hazardous rides. These are a few of the concerns:
Skewed Injury Categories
The I.A.A.P.A. places a large emphasis on hospitalizations caused by amusement park rides, but not so much on the minor injuries. According to CNN, over 30,000 people visited the hospital for ride-related injuries in 2016. These injuries ranged from broken bones, head trauma, or severe lacerations that were not included in the report because they did not require immediate hospitalization.
Some injuries can also be incorrectly categorized in the hospital. A slip and fall injury that happened when a child was getting off a ride may only be recorded as a fall injury, further skewing the data needed to improve ride safety.
Fixed vs. Mobile
The 1 in 18 million chance statistic of becoming seriously injured at an amusement park also does not include mobile carnivals and fairs. This data is collected from fixed parks only, where rides are inspected more consistently.
Mobile rides found at traveling carnivals are constantly being taken down and reassembled throughout the year. Every time a ride is taken down and shipped to a new location, the possibility of damage increases. This puts riders at a higher risk of injuries for equipment malfunctions during operation.
Injury data acquired from amusement parks and carnivals are not as accurate as it should be. This is in part due to the regulation differences from state to state. According to Safer Parks, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission only investigates accidents and helps to correct defects or hazards with rides on mobile attractions. Fixed amusement parks are regulated by the state and local entities they reside in- if they choose. Some states have no regulations when it comes to amusement park rides. While these states tend to lack fixed facilities, there is no regulation for carnival rides unless a problem occurs.
New Yorkers who are avid thrill seekers do not have to stay away from amusement parks this summer to stay safe. Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding ride-related injuries You can significantly decrease your chances of preventable accidents by knowing the common injuries and the red flags that indicate a ride might not be safe.
Common Ride Injuries
A study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2013 found most amusement park and carnival injuries occur during the summer months. Approximately 20 children are treated every day for ride-related injuries between May and September. Around 28 percent of these injuries were sustained to the neck and head- two areas where damage can lead to long-term health consequences.
The majority of reported ride-related injuries include bumps and bruises (29%); sprains and strains (21%); cuts (20%); fractures (10%); and other (20%).
The ‘other’ category of this study is concerning. These accidents could be serious injuries such as brain injuries or spinal cord damage, or even catastrophic injuries such as amputations. And classifying the category as ‘other’ provides the misconception that the injury might not have been severe enough to list.
How Ride Injuries Happen
Most ride-related injuries are entirely preventable. In fact, the Nationwide Children’s study shows most kids become injured on rides simply from getting on and off! Other causes of ride-related injuries include:
- Falling on or against a ride (31.7%);
- Hitting their body on a ride or being hit by something while riding (17.7%);
- Catching a body part or their clothing on a ride component (7.2%);
- Getting on or off the ride (6.3%); and
- Being struck by ride, moving or stationary (2.6%).
Amusement park rides are made with durable materials that are not necessarily comfortable when you’re being jolted, jumbled, and flipped around at high speeds. Even riders who use the safety restraints correctly can become injured from the force of a ride digging seatbelts into their abdomens and legs, or their head banging back and forth against over-the-shoulder safety devices.
Children are especially susceptible to injuries on amusement park rides because they may not know the safest ways to position their bodies or prepare for upcoming turns and twists. They also have a false belief that rides are safer than they really are, unable to understand the consequences of failed inspections or malfunctioning parts.
Injuries are not always the fault of the rider. Several unsafe rides around the country continue to operate every year, even with known risks of injury and death. Parents should always be aware that just because a ride is up and running does not ensure its safety.
In New York, these are the departments regulating ride attractions:
- New York State: New York State rides are regulated through the NYS Department of Labor. They are responsible for inspecting amusement park and fair rides outside of New York City and require that all rides have a permit to operate.
- New York City: New York City rides are regulated by the city and must be licensed to operate. Licenses depend on the type of ride and duration of stay, and portable rides must be inspected each time they relocate.
If parents are concerned about any ride they are seeing in operation, say something. Unsafe rides are only shut down if someone reports them or after horrific accidents occur.
Don’t Forget About Amusement Park Illnesses
Carnival and amusement park treats can lead to unnecessary pain and suffering this summer. Food-borne illnesses can run rampant when establishments neglect standard health practices such as monitoring food temperatures, refrigeration or using proper hygiene practices.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests inspecting food trucks and carts for these safety concerns before purchasing any meals:
- Clean/tidy workstations free from garbage and food debris.
- A sink for employees to wash their hands.
- Employees wearing gloves or using tongs when handling food.
- Refrigeration on site for raw ingredients or pre-cooked foods.
- A visible recent inspection report or online version showing they are safe and hygienic.
To avoid becoming a victim of food poisoning this summer, bringing your own meals and snacks is the best way to eliminate the risk.
How To Ride Safe
Parents are responsible for educating their kids on how to ride safely this summer. Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommends reviewing these safety precautions before allowing your children on any rides:
- Follow ride recommendations: If the ride your child wants to go on has a height, weight or age restriction, there is a good reason. Don’t trick the operators into letting your child on a ride they are not physically ready for.
- Follow seating and loading instructions: Each ride has its own method of getting on/off, seatbelt instructions, and rules for who should sit where on the ride. Following these rules will only help prevent injuries.
- Use safety equipment: Seatbelts and safety bars are not optional. Always make sure your child is safely secured and that they are large enough for the safety equipment to tighten properly.
- Know your child’s behavior: Some kids are not emotionally ready for rides even if they are big enough. If you think your child will not follow the rules, don’t put them on the ride.
- Trust your instincts: If a ride sounds or looks unsafe, chances are it could be. Use your best judgment and don’t get on any ride that looks questionable.
Call an NYC and Long Island Ride Accident Attorney
With the lives of millions of visitors in their hands every year, there is absolutely no room for parks and fairs to be negligent just to make a profit. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury due to the negligence of an amusement park or fair ride, our aggressive personal injury lawyers are here to fight for your rights to safety.
With over 20 years of experience representing personal injury victims, Siler & Ingber, LLP will provide you with a free case review to explore all your options when it comes to seeking justice for your unnecessary injuries. Contact us today at 1-877-LAW-4343, or schedule an appointment online anytime. We never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.