From kiddie carnival rides for young children to high-climbing roller coasters for teens, most kids are enticed by the thrill of the ride.  And with spring in the air it’s only a matter of time before amusement parks and local fairs begin operating again.  But what do we know about the safety of these rides, before we send our children on them?

In a recent tragic incident in Illinois, a three-year-old boy fell from a rollercoaster at an indoor children’s amusement park.  He apparently was able to get free from the safety bar and slip out of the ride, falling to his death. It is believed that the boy met the height requirements for the ride, but was somehow able to come free from the ride’s restraint.

Though it is still too early to know many of the details of how this accident happened, it is important to look at what protections there are to see that our children are safe when they are riding amusement rides.

The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is our first line of safety for amusement rides and attractions.  Before they can operate initially, rides and attractions must be inspected and approved by the IDOL for a permit, and then annually after that.  In addition to safety inspection of the equipment, the permit requires documentation that the workers have been properly screened and trained according to the IDOL requirements.

It’s not just typical rollercoaster and ferris wheel types of rides that are required to have permits from the IDOL.  Other attractions such as climbing walls, haunted houses, and inflatables are also subject to the yearly inspections.  There are both civil and criminal penalties involved for failing to have a proper permit for a ride, and for not complying with orders from the IDOL.

For the young boy who fell from the rollercoaster, these safety requirements alone did not provide enough protection.   The ride had reportedly been inspected, and had a proper permit, and the height restrictions were met.  So it is important to look at what else we can do to give our children an extra measure of safety protection.

The IDOL provides us with some additional guidelines for amusement park safety, including:

  • checking for current permit stickers on all rides and attractions your children will be going on;
  • making ourselves aware of all riding restrictions, such as height and age;
  • explaining to our children why it is dangerous to stand up or loosen the restraints on a ride—all seatbelts and restraints must be used properly and not tampered with;
  • explaining to our children the importance of keeping their hands and feet inside the ride, and holding on to any handles that are provided; and
  • explaining to our children the importance of following other instructions of the ride operators, including staying seated until the ride is completely stopped.

Importantly, also, it is discouraged to try to pressure anyone to go on a ride if he or she is afraid.  We all want our children to have fun and unique life experiences, but it is also important to stay safe and be vigilant.  If something doesn’t seem right about a ride operator or equipment, don’t take a chance.  Unsafe conditions on rides and amusement attractions can be reported to the IDOL.