ABC 33/40 News iTeam: The Alarming Truth About Amusement Park Rides
The fall fair and carnival season is here. But recent accidents nationwide have raised concerns about amusement ride safety. A teenager was killed in Ohio in July, when a ride broke apart. Seven others were injured. Corrosion inside the ride was to blame according to news reports. It had passed a state inspection.
Critics say a patchwork of regulations from state to state leave the industry to police itself. The Consumer Product Safety Commission works only on voluntary safety standards for mobile amusement rides.
Firm data on accident numbers are hard to come by. The CPSC estimates more than 37,000 people went to emergency rooms in 2015 with ride injuries. Since 2010, 29 deaths have been reported on amusement rides or water slides. Safety experts want a national reporting system.
Regulations depend on which state you live in. "Alabama is one of few that doesn't have certified ride inspectors," explains Randy Stephenson, General Manager, Alabama National Fair in Montgomery. At the annual fair he manages, the ride company pays for an independent inspection. He says they are accountable and liable should there be an accident.
Those inspections cost thousands of dollars which a smaller operations could not afford. City inspectors and the fire marshal only look at electrical systems, not the rides. Stephenson tells us all carnival operators are supposed to do a daily check of rides and have a log.
He says while accidents are rare, they will make news headlines. "Happens everywhere: Disney, Six Flags. When it happens, it is catastrophic," remarks Stephenson.
Stephenson, Alabama's Agriculture Commissioner, State Fire Marshal and industry representatives are working on legislation requiring state inspections. "If we wait until something happens before we do something, shame on us," says Scott Pilgreen, State Fire Marshal.
Some advice for parents: Watch a ride before your child gets on it, trust your instincts if something doesn't seem right, be sure ride workers are checking seatbelts and safety bars, and if you see an issue report it to police onsite. The fire marshal can shut down a ride.
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