Along the midway

Summer months and amusement parks were surely made for each other: How many of us at some time or other haven't delighted in the squeal of children on a roller coaster or Ferris wheel; the organlike melody of a merry-go-round; or the good humor of friends and families gathered around to see whether Uncle Fred or Grandmother Jones would really muster up the courage to go through a haunted house?

It is precisely because amusement parks do offer family outings for millions of Americans that park officials should ensure that every possible step is taken for their safety and comfort.

And state and local governments would seem to have a clear obligation to ensure that rides and equipment are safe and that operators are trained in proper operating methods. Measures should be taken to prevent the type of tragic incidents that have occurred at several amusement parks in recent weeks.

About half the states have laws requiring periodic inspection of amusement park rides. All states should have such measures. Rides that are fixed or stationary in nature should be given periodic inspection. And amusement parks, both the large, fixed parks and local ''fairs,'' should be required to carry minimum levels of insurance.

Local officials should be particularly careful in overseeing smaller park operators - the type that tend to work a weekend stand in one neighborhood and then move on to another community.

The rationale for such close monitoring is not to inhibit people from having fun - or tie up park operators in unnecessary red tape - but to make certain that such facilities meet adequate standards of protection for their patrons.

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