Amusement parks and traveling carnivals offer an exciting escape from everyday life. They also offer mechanical hazards that can, and do, hurt visitors. According to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 10,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for amusement park injuries in 1999, an increase of 35% since 1993.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) disputes those figures, and they’ve hired themselves a statistician to explain away the increase. What makes their quest a little awkward is that the data they’ve set out to discredit is the very same data that the industry has been citing for years to prove how safe their rides are.
The IAAPA loved that data for 20 years, until it showed a sharp increase in ride-related injuries on permanent rides. Now, suddenly, the data is deeply flawed. But only sometimes. Oddly enough, the press materials on the IAAPA’s website liberally reference figures from the CPSC data.
Nobody knows how safe amusement rides are in this country. The best data we have comes from the CPSC, and the industry believes that data to be fatally flawed. Below are some of the facts regarding Amusement Park Accidents and Injury data.
- The IAAPA doesn’t keep injury data on the parks it represents.
- No federal agency has authority directly to monitor the safety of rides at permanent amusement parks.
- Some parks and carnivals report amusement park injuries to state regulatory agencies, but the reporting criteria varies from state to state. For example, New Jersey requires that even minor amusement park injuries such as bumps and scrapes be reported, while Ohio lets parks keep amusement park accidents records confidential unless a rider dies or is immediately admitted into the hospital.
- Amusement Park Accidents data for large theme parks is particularly well-protected. California is still hammering out the details of it’s first regulatory law, which passed in 1999. Florida’s theme parks, which account for 20% of all U.S. amusement park business, are exempt from state regulatory laws. Right now consumers have no way of finding out how many amusement park accidents have happened or how amusement park injuries have occurred on rides at parks such as Disney World and Universal Studios Florida.
A Better Question: Who is at Risk for Ride-Related Injuries?
Amusement rides range widely in terms of size, speed, height, g-forces, intensity, and intended audience. Riders range widely in terms of age, height, weight, mental ability, developmental maturity, and their ability to understand mechanical cause-and-effect. The various combinations and permutations of those factors contribute to the excitement of thrill rides. They also combine to create very real dangers for certain groups of people – most notably small children.
The Good News
Data gathered from states with strong regulatory programs show that serious amusement park injuries are statistically rare in those states. For example, Pennsylvania licensed 3221 amusement rides and attractions in 1999, yet reported only 347 amusement park accidents requiring medical treatment.
Since parks and carnivals don’t report amusement park accidents unless they are regulated, it’s impossible to tell whether Florida’s theme parks are as safe as those in Pennsylvania. In fact, that’s one of the biggest danger in allowing parks to police their own accidents. The information doesn’t get out to consumers, and that means consumers can’t make informed decisions about which parks to visit and which rides are safe for their families.
Should you require assistance with a case regarding an amusement park accident or injuries, please contact us for an immediate free evaluation of your situation. We have dealt with many of these cases and can be an invaluable resource for information and more important assistance.