School's nearly over and that means festival season is upon us. Each weekend from May to October, dozens of festivals take place throughout Ohio. Many of these events include rides for the kiddies. As a parent, I'm sure I'm not alone in my skepticism of their safety. Is a ride that was in Cleveland yesterday and put up in Toledo over-night really safe?
A 2005 report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission tracked pediatric injuries involving all amusement rides (permanent and temporary) that were treated in U.S. emergency departments. The study's authors noted that an improved national system for monitoring injuries involving amusement rides is needed.
From 1990 to 2010, an estimated 92,885 children were treated at the ER for injuries involving amusement rides:
- Average of 4,423 injuries a year
- Head and neck was the most commonly injured body region
- Soft tissue injuries were most common
- Falls were the most frequent cause of injuries
- 1.5% of injuries resulted in hospitalization.
The study also found that fixed-site amusement park rides - like those at theme parks - accounted for 33 percent of the injuries, mobile carnivals were responsible for 30 percent, and a surprising 12 percent of injuries occurred on indoor rides like those found at malls, restaurants or arcades. (Those figures are ambiguous, because in 25 percent of the cases, the site was unknown.)
The CPSC received reports of 55 deaths associated with both fixed-site and mobile amusement rides from 1987 to 2001.
- 38 involved fixed rides,
- 10 involved mobile rides
- 7 involved rides for which the site could not be identified.
In Ohio, the Division of Amusement Ride Safety, that oversees both permanent and temporary amusement rides, is under the purview of the Department of Agriculture. All amusement ride companies must be licensed. According to their website, this includes all companies who provide:
An amusement ride or device, aquatic device, or a combination of devices that carries or conveys passengers on, along, around, over, or through a fixed restricted course within a defined area for the purpose of giving its passengers amusement pleasure, or excitement. "Amusement Ride" includes carnival rides, bungee jumping, inflatable rides, climbing walls and fair rides.
To qualify for a license, companies must submit an application with proof of insurance, their itinerary and proper forms for operators' daily inspections. Additionally, they must pass inspection once a year, with mandatory follow-up inspections in the event of an accident.
The Bottom Line
Prior to getting on a ride, or allowing your family member to ride, do not take any unnecessary risks. Take safety into your hands at events where rides are temporarily set up.
Trust your instincts. Don't get on a ride if it doesn't seem safe.
- Don't board a ride if you see broken parts, signs of improper maintenance, or an inattentive operator,
- Listen to the ride - does it sound like a machine in need of repair?
- Read those warning signs. The ride may not be appropriate for people with specific health conditions.
- Evaluate the ride operator. Make sure he is giving the ride and occupants his full attention.
- Pay attention to other riders. If you feel another's misconduct may put you in jeopardy, don't get on the ride.
- Don't force children to ride rides. If they're afraid, they may act erratically, causing unnecessary risk to themselves and others.
- Obey height and weight restrictions. Never sneak children onto rides that they are too small or too young for.
- Always use the safety equipment provided, but be aware of its limitations. Ride manufacturers provide seatbelts, lap bars, and other safety equipment to reduce the risk of injury. However, many safety devices used on children's amusement rides aren't designed to keep young children in their seats. Lap bars on Ferris Wheels and lap ropes on kiddie trains aren't considered restraints at all. They're designed as psychological barriers, an incentive to stay seated.
- Follow the Rules. I know that it's fun to put your hands in the air. But it's seldom a good idea. Read and follow all posted instructions, listen to the ride operator, and make sure your kids understand (and follow) the rules.
While most parks and carnivals pay close attention safety, there are unfortunate exceptions; just as in any industry. The dedicated, hardworking Ohio accident attorneys and support staff at Elk & Elk are always prepared and eager to represent injury victims and their families and see to it that their lives get back on track as soon as possible in the wake of an unpleasant experience.