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Who’s regulating New York’s amusement rides?

Photo of Harlan Thompson

When summer thrills lead to deadly spills

Between Coney Island, Six Flags Great Escape and countless other attractions, children all over New York are enjoying high-speed thrill rides this summer. But most of us don’t know exactly how safe those rides are. Do you know when that Tilt-a-Whirl was last inspected, or who is responsible for ensuring amusement rides are safe?

Unfortunately, the answer is often unclear. According to the insurance industry publication Insurance Journal, there is no national standard for  ride inspections or maintenance. Each state has unique laws, and they can vary greatly. With summer in full swing, now is a perfect time to learn more about amusement ride safety and regulations so you can make the right choices for your child’s safety.

Why these standards matter

According to TIME Magazine, this summer has already seen many serious amusement park accidents. Earlier this month, a roller coaster collision in Spain killed 33 people. Many American children have been injured on unsafe rides this summer. High-profile incidents like these always result in media attention and calls for stronger safety standards.

Eventually, news coverage slows down and most of us forget about the need for better amusement park safety. However, it remains important that we keep a critical eye on the industry. Uniform standards for ride inspections and maintenance could help prevent these tragic accidents and make it easier to hold responsible operators accountable

A tangled mess of regulations

Every state has its own unique regulations about amusement rides, and some are much more strict than others. For our neighbors in New Jersey, for example, state-trained engineers and inspectors conduct regular inspections. At the other end of the spectrum, less strict states like Kansas and Tennessee allow parks to hire their own private inspectors. Do areas with less government oversight see a corresponding spike in accidents?

It’s hard to say for sure, especially because we lack standards for collecting and reporting data on these incidents. But with dangerous amusement rides resulting in 37,300 ER visits in 2015 (according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission), we think it’s time to start taking these hazards seriously.

In our next post, we’ll look at New York’s system for regulating amusement parks and thrill rides. Stay tuned, and stay safe this summer!

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