States called on to make sure amusement parks are safe as well as fun
The bar slams down. Fingers tighten in anticipation of the coming loops, twists, spins, and dives. The car begins to rock. One las deep breath, and whoosh -- you're off.Skip to next paragraph
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Amusement rides -- they have promised fun, fantasy, thrills, and lots of laughter for a hundred years.
Yet within the last month, major ride-related injuries or fatalities have occured in Illinois, Texas, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Colorado. Annually the number of ride injuries totals 6,000 to 8,000.
It is not only those publicized accidents that have increasing numbers of people calling for stricter ride-safety standards. Lack of safety codes and incomplete records of problems, foster the persistence of minor injuries caused by improper safety features, untrained operators, and public ignorance of the dangers that may exist -- at giant amusement theme parks to small carnivals in shopping center parking lots.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), investigating accidents and forwarding information on to the states, has served as a catalyst, pushing those in the amusement business to adopt stronger safety habits.
But on provision, will bar the federal budget, soon to be signed by President Reagan, will bar the CPSC from investigating ride-related accidents in permanent amusement parks.
At a time when some parks and carnivals are busier than ever, will safety awareness continue under state regulations?
To ensure safer rides at amusement parks and carnivals, safety experts and concerned citizens suggest:
* Greater public awareness of potential ride dangers to help eliminate accidents caused by patron carelessness. Although the most serious and fatal accidents in the amusement industry are associated with fast, thrill rides, seemingly harmless rides have lead to fatal injuries.
* Adoption of ride safety legislation in all states. Currently only 16-to-18 states have any type of ride safety regulations, and some of these cover only traveling carnivals.
* Periodic inspections of all amusement park and carnival rides by qualified state inspectors.
* Increased communication between all in the amusement industry to ensure familiarity with ride safety problems, and new safety requirements issued by manufacturers.
* Nationwide acceptance of voluntary maintenance and safety standards developed by the amusement industry in conjunction with the American Society of Testing and Materials.
"It is a shame that too many times, only after a ridecrises occurs do states pass safety regulations," says Nancy Burkhiemer, deputy commissioner of labor and industry for the state of Maryland.
Burkhiemer, who administers the comprehensive state ride-safety code, says because of public educational campaigns, people will now call her office if a ride is operating without a state inspection sticker. Maryland's law requires inspection of all carnival rides each time they are reassembled, and permanent amusement park rides twice a year.