Are you a nervous rider? Ever afraid of going on a roller coaster because you’re worred about an accident? You’re not alone!
Accidents at major theme parks are extremely rare, which is why when they do happen, they’re all over the news. The tragic incident at ICON Park in December 2022 was covered incessantly by news outlets, and many began to question if the attractions they’d grown up riding or gone on a million times without thinking are really safe. Even when accidents are due to unsafe Guest behavior, it can still cause a lot of anxiety in riders.
USA Today recently published a story where they called in experts to weigh in on the safety of rides and crunch the numbers on exactly how common theme park accidents are – and they’ve found that due to media sensationalization, accidents are far less common and far less serious than some people would think.
For example, according to the National Safety Council’s 2021 safety report for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), there were an estimated 130 serious (meaning fatalities or immediate hospitalizations) ride-related injuries reported that year. Compare that to the 42,915 people killed in motor vehicle accidents that same year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
IAAPA estimates that this means the odds of being seriously injured on a theme park attraction are 1 in 15.5 million.
Safety is at the forefront of every theme park ride design concept and is a top priority for ride engineers and designers alike. IAAPA holds strict standards when it comes to attraction safety and regulation. “The ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards prescribe very detailed G-force levels that have to be achieved in order for a ride to be considered safe,” says Jim Seay, president and owner of Premier Rides. Premier Rides designs and manufactures attractions for major parks like Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Six Flags.
Rides go through extensive safety testing before a single person gets to ride them, and testing continues even after the ride is open. According to Seay, rides are tested every operating day, alongside separate weekly and monthly inspections for various things. When a ride closes temporarily or stops mid-ride, it’s usually a good sign, meaning the safety systems in place are working and detecting that something isn’t right.
On the rare occasion that an accident occurs, ride manufacturers, the Park, and state authorities will work together to find the cause. Mechanical failures actually usually make up the smallest portion of incidents, with a lot of accidents chalked up to human error or unsafe behavior.
Therefore, to stay safe on a ride, the best thing you can do is follow the rules. Pay attention to the posted signs about riding with certain medical conditions or pregnancies. Don’t try to stuff your child’s shoes to hit a height requirement. Don’t follow viral hacks that tell you to unlatch your safety restraint for a more thrilling ride. Stow your loose articles. Those rules are in place for your safety, and following them will ensure you have a safe and amazing ride!