Americans have been toting their kids to amusement parks since the late 19th century, when Sea Lion Park opened on Coney Island. Since then, parks have sprung up in virtually every state. Not only has the number of parks increased drastically—attractions within amusement parks have gotten higher, faster and more extreme.
Although global safety standards are well established, and governed by ASTM International in addition to numerous government safety inspectors, parents are right to be concerned about safety. That’s because amusement park accidents do happen. A major accident tends to grab the headlines, but there are also countless minor injuries that aren’t covered by the press. Often times, minor injuries are effectively treated by a local urgent care center.
Many parents are taking a fresh look at amusement park safety. Can you really trust the safety and maintenance standards at a given amusement park? Are the size and height requirements accurate? What are the chances my child (or myself) could sustain an injury when we’re supposed to be having fun?
As a parent, it can be difficult to think about quitting amusement parks altogether. Many kids still have a blast while visiting these parks, especially during the summer months. However, parents need a way to ensure the safety of their children, especially since children between 10-14 years of age tend to be injured more than other age groups.
What are the most common injuries?
Serious injuries are possible and do occur in rare circumstances. In most cases, injuries sustained at amusement parks are fairly easy to treat, including:
- Trauma to the back, neck or head (including whiplash)
- Cuts, sprains or broken bones
Why do these injuries occur?
When an injury does occur, it usually falls into one of four categories:
- There was a mechanical problem with the ride, such as faulty harnesses or tracks
- The employees operating the ride made mistakes during preparation or operation
- The passenger did not comply with safety instructions and requirements
- The ride is simply too fast and extreme, causing trauma to the body
What steps should parents take?
To ensure a safer experience at the amusement park, parents should consider the following steps:
- Eliminate the possibility of riding certain attractions (although this may not be a popular option!)
- Take specific health issues of children into account
- Research safety records at the amusement park you intend to visit
- Watch your child closely and/or ride with them to ensure safety
- Watch closely for any signs of injury and head to urgent care if needed
What’s the bottom line?
Many parents feel that today’s amusement parks may have rides and attractions that are simply not worth the risk—however, they still enjoy many aspects of the park, and want their kids to have the experience. In that case, it’s worth researching not only the general safety standards of the park you intend to visit, but also safety standards and requirements of individual rides. Decide in advance which rides are off limits and make sure you child has this information ahead of time. Taking extra responsibility for safety may be time-consuming, but it’s worth it to make sure that your amusement park experience is both safe and fun.