Amusement Ride Safety

Lessen the chances of your kid experiencing a ride-related injury this summer.

amusement park Kevin Miyazaki

A new study by the researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital investigated amusement ride injuries from 1990 to 2010 and found that nearly 93,000 children were injured on rides ranging from roller coasters at theme parks to merry-go-rounds at county fairs to coin-operated rides at restaurants and shopping malls.

The overall percentage of injuries requiring hospitalization or observation was low, suggesting that serious injuries are relatively rare. However, during the summer months -- May through September -- there was an amusement ride-related injury serious enough to require hospitalization once every three days on average.

The study's senior author, Gary Smith, M.D., Dr.P.H., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of Nationwide Children's Hospital, says enforcement of safety standards can vary widely, depending on where the amusement rides are located. Mobile rides are regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency, but rides found at places like amusement parks and shopping malls are left to state or local governments, "leading to a fragmented system."

Because of that, "it becomes very difficult to effectively regulate and prevent these injuries, or even know how many injuries are occurring," says Dr. Smith. "A coordinated national system would help us prevent amusement ride-related injuries through better injury surveillance and more consistent enforcement of standards."

Injuries were most likely to be sustained as the result of a fall, or by either hitting a body part on a ride or being hit by something while riding. And nearly one-third of injuries occurred on fixed-site rides (those at amusement parks), followed by mobile rides (those at fairs and festivals) and "mall" rides (those at shopping centers, restaurants, and arcades).

"Injuries from smaller amusement rides located in malls, stores, restaurants and arcades are typically given less attention by legal and public health professionals than injuries from larger amusement park rides," says Dr. Smith. "We need to raise awareness of this issue and determine the best way to prevent injuries from these types of rides."

    Consider these safety tips before your child's next amusement ride:

      • Always follow all posted height, age, weight, and health restrictions.
      • Ensure that your child uses safety equipment such as seat belts and safety bars, follows any special seating order and/or loading instructions, and knows to keep his hands and feet inside the ride at all times.
      • If you don't think your child will be able to follow the rules, keep him off the ride.
      • Avoid "mall rides" if they are over a hard, unpadded surface or if they don't have a child restraint such as a seat belt.
      • Choose a different activity if you're worried about the safety of the ride. Always trust your instinct.

        Amusement Rides: More Risk Than Fun?

          Courtesy of Nationwide Children's Hospital

          Originally featured on nationwidechildrens.org and reprinted with permission.

          Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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