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Amusement Park Safety Shouldn’t Be a Roller Coaster Ride

Every day during the summer months, approximately 20 injuries related to amusement rides occur nationwide. Follow these tips to ensure your family stays safe while enjoying the ride.

A new study reveals that between 1990 and 2010, 92,885 children under the age of 18 were treated in emergency departments for amusement ride-related injuries in the United States. Most injuries occurred between May and September, averaging about 20 injuries per day during those summer months.

The study, conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, examined injuries to children related to rides at amusement parks (fixed-site rides), rides at fairs and festivals (mobile rides) and rides found at local malls, stores, restaurants or arcades (mall rides). Key findings include:

  • The head and neck region was the most frequently injured (28 percent), followed by arm (24 percent), face (18 percent) and leg (17 percent) injuries.
  • Soft tissue injuries (29 percent) were the most common injury type followed by strains and sprains (21 percent), cuts (20 percent) and broken bones (10 percent).
  • Injuries were most likely to be sustained as the result of a fall (32 percent), or by either hitting a part of a body on a ride or being hit by something while riding (18 percent).
  • Nearly one-third (33 percent) of injuries occurred on a fixed-site ride, followed by mobile rides (29 percent) and “mall” rides (12 percent).
  • During summer months, injuries serious enough to require hospitalization occur an average of once every 3 days.
  • Injuries occurring from “mall rides” were more likely to be head/neck or face injuries, concussions/closed head injuries or cuts than were injuries associated with fixed site or mobile rides.
  • Almost three-fourths of the mall ride injuries occurred when a child fell in, on, off or against the ride; lack of restraints could be a contributing factor.

“Injuries from smaller amusement rides located in malls, stores, restaurants and arcades are typically given less attention by legal and public health professionals than injuries from larger amusement park rides, yet our study showed that in the U.S. a child is treated in an emergency department, on average, every day for an injury from an amusement ride located in a mall, store, restaurant or arcade,” said the study’s senior author Gary Smith, M.D., DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy.

Amusement Ride Safety Tips

  • To stay safe on amusement rides, follow these safety tips:
  • Always follow all posted height, age, weight and health restrictions.
  • Make sure to follow any special seating order and/or loading instructions.
  • Always use safety equipment such as seat belts and safety bars.
  • Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.
  • Know your child. If you don’t think he/she will be able to follow the rules, keep him/her off the ride.
  • Trust your instincts. If you are worried about the safety of the ride, choose a different activity.
  • Avoid “mall rides” if they are over a hard, unpadded surface or if they don’t have a child restraint such as a seat belt.

“Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over mobile rides, regulation of fixed-site rides is currently left to state or local governments, leading to a fragmented system,” added Smith, who is also a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “A coordinated national system would help us prevent amusement ride-related injuries through better injury surveillance and more consistent enforcement of standards.”

The study appears in the May issue of Clinical Pediatrics.

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