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Who's regulating potentially dangerous thrill rides?

Inconsistent safety standards can be deadly.

Between local fairs, traveling carnivals and huge attractions like Disney World, many Florida children have enjoyed a high-speed ride or two this summer. But do you know how often those rides are inspected, or who's responsible for their safety?

The answer is less clear than you might expect. There is no single standard for inspecting and maintaining rides in the United States. Each state has its own laws aimed at keeping these rides safe, and they can vary widely. As Child Safety Awareness Month draws to a close, it's a great time to learn how these rides are overseen in your area so you can make wise decisions about your child's safety.

Why Standards Matter

Earlier this summer, a ten-year-old boy in Kansas was killed and three little girls in Tennessee were injured because of defective amusement rides. These high-profile incidents always draw extra attention and calls for safety reform.

But even after the news coverage of these accidents dies down and things return to normal, it is important to look at the industry critically and improve safety requirements. More uniform standards would not only help improve safety for people who visit these attractions, but also make it easier to hold negligent operators accountable.

A Patchwork Of Regulations

Each one of the 50 states has its own unique regulations, and some are far more stringent than others. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, for example, the state trains engineers and inspectors who regularly inspect rides. On the other end of the spectrum, Kansas and Tennessee both rely on parks to conduct their own inspections using private inspectors, a system with little government oversight. Did these lax regulations contribute to the accidents we mentioned above?

It's difficult to say, especially because there aren't even uniform standards for reporting and collecting data on amusement ride accidents. But with amusement rides causing 29 deaths since 2010 and 37,300 emergency room visits in 2015 (according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission), it is high time to start taking these risks seriously.

In our next post, we'll dive into Florida's system for regulating amusement parks and rides. Stay tuned, and have a safe end to your summer!

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