In the waning days of summer, you considered taking the family to one of the many California amusement parks for one last fling. After all, what can be more of a stress relief than defying gravity or releasing a blood-curdling scream on the first big hill of a monster roller coaster? Perhaps the last thing you wanted to think about was how safe the amusements were and whether your safety or lives were in danger as you buckled into a ride.
Nevertheless, if your day of fun ended at the hospital following an injury at a theme park, you may be ready to face the dangers. What you learn about the amusement park industry may surprise you.
You may believe that you are perfectly safe because, like most other industries, amusement parks are under the careful regulation of the U.S. government. However, for the most part, amusement parks are self-regulated. Some states have limited oversight, but even the Consumer Product Safety Commission does not have any authority over theme parks.
This also means that the parks are under no obligation to report to any agency if someone suffers an injury -- even a fatal one. It may not be in a park's best financial interests to publicize or share the number of patrons who end up visiting the emergency room. Therefore, you have no way of knowing the safety record of a park you may visit.
It's not all fun and games
Some of the dangers you may face when you attend an amusement park include the following:
- Aneurysms and other brain injuries from extremely fast rollercoasters
- Poorly maintained amusements that have not been inspected for safety
- Exposure to blood-borne pathogens from other amusement riders
- Ride operators who are poorly trained, underpaid and perhaps unhappy with their monotonous jobs
Perhaps the most dangerous ride in an amusement park is a water slide. If you or your children race to the water slide after a hot afternoon on the rides, be aware that the movement of the water down a twisting slide can be powerful and unpredictable. A child or someone without strength or agility could potentially suffer serious injuries, so it is important to obey the height restrictions even if the ride operator does not.
Determining liability may depend on proving negligence, and this can be a complex undertaking.