As Memorial Day weekend came and went and therefore the start to summer vacation season, millions of children of all ages are eagerly awaiting visits to carnivals, amusement and water parks. But for one child, Kaitlyn Lassiter, she will be speaking out against amusement park safety with Massachusetts’s congressman, Edward Markey. Tragically last year Kaitlin’s feet were severed on an amusement park ride. She will for obvious reasons never be the same but she is campaigning for better safety standards.
Congressman Markey has proposed bill, H.R. 2320, The National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act. If passed, this new law would close a huge loophole that allows federal safety oversight in a majority of the country’s major theme parks. 71% of customers who visit America’s top ten amusement parks-62 million-are riding on unregulated rides. Basically what this means for you as a consumer is that there are no government ride inspections or investigations of serious accidents or death.
Here in California we are one of only 27 states that have some safety regulations and ride inspections. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) regulates the installation, maintenance, operation use and inspection of all permanent amusement park rides. A new bill, SB 783 that will take effect January 1, 2009 will require stricter reporting to DOSH as well as park owners to have $1 million dollars of liability insurance coverage per occurrence, up from the current standard of $500,000.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission figures, amusement park serious injuries have doubled over the ten years. Approximately 100,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for amusement park injuries. This includes water slides as well. It’s not surprising that half of all injuries and ¾ of all falls and ejections involve children under the age of 13.
Young children have the highest risk for personal injury during theme park rides. Why? Many of the bracing point and restraints systems on the rides were designed originally for adults, not children. This leaves smaller children vulnerable to falls or traumatic ejections. These parks are not held to the same standards such as vehicles or other forms of transportation.
We seem to be in a catch 22 situation; this industry counts on parent to protect their kids and parents depend on industry to design safe rides. So how can we protect our children and have a worry free summer vacation? A group that educates the public in keeping all persons safe on amusement rides is www.safeparks.org/.
Here are a few simple safety tips for parents:
· Explain to your children the importance of safety instruction when they enter and leave a ride. They just look at fast roller coasters and twirling around as fun, but there are some safety measures to understand.
· Obey height and weight minimums and maximums. The park isn’t trying to punish younger children but they do care about safety. Talk to your children about the consequences of bad behavior.
· Point out safety features such as seatbelts, lap bars, grab bars, and warning signs. Explain how the safety equipment works, and what its purpose is. Parents should pay close attention to rides that use a single lap bar for multiple riders, as this presents a special hazard to young children. Single lap bars are designed to fit closely against only the largest passenger in the car, leaving smaller riders unprotected.