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Florida's complex amusement ride regulations

In the topsy-turvy world of thrill ride inspections, how does Florida measure up?

In our last post, we discussed a startling discrepancy in the way amusement rides are regulated across the United States. Every state has its own standards for inspecting roller coasters, giant slides, water park rides and other amusements - ranging from frequent inspections by state-trained inspectors to occasional paperwork audits.

So how does Florida stack up to the rest of country? Can parents in the Sunshine State rest assured that their children are safe? As in most bureaucracies, the answer is it depends.

How does Florida regulate amusement rides?

There are three different types of rides that are regulated in Florida, each with their own standards:

  1. Permanent amusement rides - Most rides in Florida get routine inspections from state inspectors, making it among the stricter, safer states. However, there is an exception for...
  2. Large parks with private inspectors - Parks with more than 1,000 employees and their own inspectors, such as Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World, are exempt from Florida's state inspection requirement.
  3. Traveling carnival rides - Traveling attractions you might see at the Midway -- like the Tilt-a-Whirl, ferris wheel and Gravitron - are regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) However, the CPSC does not conduct its own regular inspections. It only responds to accidents after they've occurred.

Can we ever expect a unified standard?

In the aftermath of serious amusement park accidents, there have been calls to unify thrill ride regulations under a federal agency, similar to OSHA's federal workplace oversight. However, the industry will likely continue to fight these efforts. We can only hope that future regulations will bring us closer to a carnival industry that protects its riders.

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