How many people have to die, or sustain serious injury from amusement park rides before the federal government steps in and regulates the amusement park industry? Rosy Esparza’s family had every right to believe that she would return from the Texas Giant roller coaster without harm or injury. However, Esparza fell to her death on the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas. Incidents like this are sadly becoming a more common event in the United States at amusement and waterparks. In fact, the number of fatalities per passenger mile on roller coasters is greater than the amount of tragedies on passenger trains, passenger buses, or passenger planes. These tragedies often occur because the rides are not independently inspected, inspections are not done frequently enough, accidents are not made public and the accidents are investigated by the parks. The federal government needs to create national safety standards for all rides at amusement parks, so that every amusement park patron can enjoy the park as it is intended without fear of injury or death.
Less than three months after the death of Esparza the Texas Giant has been re-opened , and back in full operation. The roller coaster underwent extensive testing, and received approval from the Texas Department of Insurance to resume operations, however the findings of the testing are not available to the public due to ongoing litigation. Even though Texas Six Flags has claimed no fault for the Esparza accident; the park has added incremental and overlapping safety features. These safety features include redesigned restraint-bar pads and new seat belts. So the question is, are the department of insurance officials, who inspected this ride in the past, sufficient enough to make sure these rides are safe for future riders?
Amusement park rides should be inspected by an independent third party, which has no financial interest in the amusement park. Having the insurance company inspect the rides is not sufficient; all rides should be investigated by inspectors with the mechanical aptitude to know if the ride is in proper working condition. The United States has trained safety inspectors for baby strollers, bikes, and motorized ride-on toys; shouldn’t rides that travel up to heights of 456 feet and at 128 miles per hour have safety inspectors also? Currently there are no federal regulations on amusement park rides, so there are no reliable national statistics of injuries on amusement park rides. Each state has its own regulations for amusement parks; some states do not have any regulations of amusement park rides. Many states do not have an inspection force and rely on insurance investigators to inspect and or approve these rides. However, most states do require the rides be inspected annually, but these regulations are not enforced. According to state records more than half of Pennsylvania’s permanent amusement parks and water parks did not turn in all of their required inspections. In fact, the state agency had no reports at all for 12 of the 117 state amusement and water parks.
Following the death of a child on a roller coaster ride at Disney’s MGM studios in Orlando, Florida, lawmakers began the process of trying to pass the National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act. This act was introduced by Congressman Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, in 2005. The act calls for fixed-site park rides to fall under the regulation act of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The commission currently only oversees traveling carnival rides, because fixed-site theme park rides are exempt from federal oversight. Even though the fixed-site rides are rode more frequently than traveling carnival rides they are subject to less regulations. Many of these rides are operated hundreds of times a day, seven days per week but only inspected once during the year. There needs to be a regulation that all rides are to be inspected a minimum of quarterly to find any mechanical issues that may pose a danger to riders. Because some of these rides travel in excess of 100 miles per hour they should face similar safety standards as automobiles which do not travel at such a high rates of speed.
Another issue with the absence of federal regulations among amusement park rides is that, when an accident or mechanical failure occurs, the parks are the ones conducting the investigation and the findings of the investigation are not made public. Also, if there is no media attention about the accident or mechanical failure, the accident is unknown to the public. The federal government should create a database for all amusement parks that includes all of the rides for each. The database should include all mechanical failures of all rides in the past 12 months, any accidents in the past 12 months and the last four quarterly inspections for the ride. That way, amusement park patrons can make informed decisions whether to go to certain amusement parks and ride particular rides. Amusement-park patrons should have the right to know the history of the park and all rides, prior to riding them.
With all of the things that have federal regulations, it is hard to believe that amusement park rides do not have federal inspections and regulations. In an effort to ensure these rides are safe for the public to ride and enjoy, the federal government needs to establish national safety standards for all riders at amusement parks. If national safety standards and inspections can save the life of one person, aren’t they worth creating?
Moser, Jeff. “Family sues over Texas Giant death on the same day Six Flags says it will reopen ride.” The Dallas Morning News September 10, 2013: Newspaper Source. Web. 31 Oct. 2013 Pataro, Luca. “Scary rides, scary risks: more than 300 million people visit U.S. amusement facilities and safely enjoy 1.8 billion rides each year. But for a small number of thrill-seekers, good times can become a matter of life and death.” Risk Management. Aug. 2007: 50+. Biography In Context. Web. 26 Oct. 2013. Watson, Stephen T. “Recent tragedies strap in safety as peak concern.” Buffalo News, The (NY) 23 Aug. 2011: Newspaper Source. Web. 26 Oct. 2013