Although thrill rides and roller coasters are designed to induce feelings of danger and to make the riders feel vulnerable the truth is that they are largely very safe but only when guests follow the rules of the attractions and behave sensibly. Sadly, having in worked in a theme park for several years, I know that many visitors feel they know better than the staff and proceed to act in a way that puts both themselves and other visitors at risk.

The rules

The rules and regulations of theme park rides are there for a reason. That reason may not be obvious to the guests until something goes horribly wrong. Safe practices are also there to protect the workers on the rides and sadly it is the workers who are the most frequent victims of theme park accidents when familiarity breeds contempt and they ignore the procedures which have been established for the ride. Most fatalities on rides are workers who have crossed tracks when they shouldn’t, entered ride areas when the train was operational and performed test runs on the rides without properly securing the restraints.

Guest Fatalities

The rides at well-established theme parks are generally well maintained and rarely fail in a way that is likely to harm the guests. Rides have an elaborate series of safety features which ensure that any issue with the ride results in the system shutting down. Serious injuries and deaths as a result of catastrophic failure are therefore rare but there are often serious incidents as a result of guest actions.

The areas around rides are fenced off to prevent anyone wandering into dangerous territory. Sadly many guests ignore the advice not to take loose articles onto the attractions, lose such items and feel it is OK to jump into the ride areas to retrieve them. This is a very perilous thing to do as illustrated by an incident at a Six Flags park in America in 2008 when a teenage boy was decapitated whilst trying to retrieve a lost hat.

Thrill rides have height restrictions to ensure that all riders can be safely secured by the restraints. Many coasters also require riders to be able to brace themselves against the forces of the ride or to have a certain number of limbs. Such restrictions mean that many children and some disabled adults are unable to ride and it is astonishing how many attempt to beg their way onto the ride or to sneak into the trains. Allowing a guest onto a ride who is physically incompatible with the restraint system can have catastrophic results such as in 2004 when a disabled rider fell out of the Super Man Ride of Steel coaster in New England and was killed.

Follow the Rules

When working on roller coasters you are often asked how many people have died on the ride. I have to admit that on many occasions I and my colleagues would joke that behind the adjacent garage doors was a morgue where we kept the bodies of the deceased! The garages were actually workshops full of machines parts but the ruse kept people entertained. The fact remains, however, that those who take the law into their own hands can get seriously hurt or worse. If you are visiting a theme park, follow the instructions of the signage and the staff at all times and you will stay safe. Ignore the rules and a serious accident may ensue. You may not understand why certain regulations are in force but they all there for a reason and usually as a result of someone learning the hard way how accidents can happen.

Image credit: pixabay

Sally Stacey is a coaster well known enthusiast and ex theme park worker with a wealth of knowledge about roller coaster operation, you can find her on google+

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