Government Regulation on Amusement park rides?

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 6:36 AM
I'm doing an editorial in school about government regulation on amusement park rides.  What I would appriciate is that you people stat your opinions, and give me a clue of the General Publics opinion, if possible.
The dunce has spoke!
Tuesday, October 16, 2001 7:04 AM
Probably 80%* of all people out there don't even understand the issue.

*Remember, 4 out of 5 statistics are made up on the spot... 8-)

I can't speak for The People, but to simply refer to "government regulation" is more than a little misleading. Most amusement rides are subject to some form of government regulation. According to, 39 US states have some form of amusement ride regulation on the books. Most of the unregulated states do not have fixed amusement parks (though all states host carnival rides) and in some areas where there is no state regulation, local regulations may apply. For instance, there are no amusement ride regulations in the State of Nevada, but Clark County (which includes most of Las Vegas) has some of the strictest ride safety rules in the country.

Most State (and local, where applicable) regulations cover licensing, inspection, maintenance record keeping, basic operational guidelines (such as "Thy ride operators must be at least 16 years old"), incident reporting, insurance requirements, and rider responsibility.

Mobile carnival rides are also subject to a layer of Federal regulation in that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is empowered to identify substantial product hazards and issue recalls, which basically means they are supposed to identify defects in amusement rides that can cause injuries. The CPSC does not approve designs, conduct inspections, or handle licensing. Fixed rides are exempt from CPSC jurisdiction, although Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass) has been trying to change that for years.

There has been a lot of talk lately about Federal oversight of ride designs and biometric standards, but as of yet no regulations have been drafted that would allow for that kind of regulation on a Federal level.

Personally, I am very much in favor of local oversight (State licensing and inspections, standards enforcement, etc.) and very much opposed to any Federal program which would pre-empt local authority.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 7:21 AM
Whatever goverment regulations there are, they are probably fair. They keep us safe, And i've never heard of any ride not being better if it weren't for regulations (Except Height restrictions because of airports).

Basically, I have nothing against government regulations on amusemnt rides until I hear they won't let my home park build an inverted rollercoaster (I eally want one of those).

But remember, I probably don't know much at all about what regulations are in place where I live.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 7:23 AM

Just a question.  What is your argument for State oversight but not Federal oversight?  I am just curious as to what the differences might be.

It seems to me that the Inverted B&M coaster at a park in Florida, Ohio, California or Hoboken should have the same regulations concerning operations, inspections, etc.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 7:33 AM
I'm likely to get beat up over this, but I think we need some kind of federal regulation in the amusement industry.  I keep hearing the same things.

"Most amusement rides are subject to some form of government regulation."

"39 US states have some form of amusement ride regulation on the books"

"Most of the unregulated states do not have fixed amusement parks "

I don't like hearing those words (Most and Some) when it comes to ride safety.  I want to know that any ride I let my children ride has to at least meet some minimum safty standards.  Why not have a national standard for all amusement rides?  After all not all local governments can afford to hire consultants to help write the regulations or inspectors to enforce them.  The people who control ride safety should not be the same people who profit from ticket sales.   

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 8:01 AM
jimster, you must not be using context well, "some" is not implying that it only has partial coverage, just some form of it. There is a difference, use context, don't assume, read it before you post.
Tuesday, October 16, 2001 8:26 AM
Mr. Teen,

Keep in mind that the readers/contributors of CoasterBuzz may not represent the "general public."  Two possibilities: 

Readers/users of this forum may be significantly more educated on coasters, parks, and safety than the "general public."

Readers/users may have much more forceful opinions (either "pro" or "con") than people not as interested/involved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 8:46 AM
TrBiggar. Don't lecture me.  I did read it before I quoted.  Some form of coverage could mean anything, including partial coverage.  Perhaps only fixed rides are covered.

39 states have some form of regulation.  What about the other 11.  Do you know which states they are?  I would like to know that no matter where I go in the U.S., the rides are safe.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 10:19 AM
Jeff's avatar I'm not for federal regulation of any kind, mostly because a state like Idaho or Hawaii shouldn't be paying for regulation native to Ohio.

The other thing is that, at the federal level, it's a lot harder to keep track of, and influence, the amount of money being spent (which always seems ridiculous when it happens from Washington). I know my state rep, I prefer to keep accountability here.

I very strongly oppose any such measure that would place limits on forces that affect the body. If the feds can allow people to smoke and destroy their lungs (at a cost of billions in health care expenses), they can certainly let me experience 5 or 6 G's for breif moments where there is no evidence of a link to prolonged health risk.

One of Markey's core causes is some kind of national reporting system. Proponents argue that it gives us a better idea of how safe the rides are. That might very well be true, but even if you go by the extremely flawed CPSC report, you're still talking about an insignificant number of injuries and deaths compared to any number of areas that the government already has enormous regulation over. No one has been able to prove to me that having the feds do what the states (in most cases) do will reduce injury or death, so what's the point?

Few industries have such a great track record. Messing with that is asking for trouble, or at the very least, wasting more tax dollars on something that has no measurable effect.

Jeff - Webmaster/Admin -
"As far as I can tell it doesn't matter who you are. If you can believe, there's something worth fighting for..." - Garbage, "Parade"

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 10:20 AM

Go to or  to get detailed information on amusement ride regulations in various states.  The nature of the regulation varies widely from state to state just as does the regualtion of almost everything else.  One of the reasons for this is because states make laws that apply to their particular environment.

The overall safety record of the amusement industry is very good.  Last year there was only one death due to an accident on a fixed amusement ride.  This year there has been only one death so far due to an accident on a fixed amusement ride.  Statistically and day at the amusement park is one of the safeest things you can do.  The only really dangerous part is the drive to the park.  You are many times as likely to be killed driving to and from the park as you are to die in an accident while you are at the park.

CPSC regulation of mobile rides has resulted in no improvement in the safety record of mobile rides.  The annual report from the CPSC on amusement ride safety is a pile of distortions and statistical abuses.  See my current editiorial at this site for more information.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 10:24 AM
Mr. Teen:

Don't forget that amusement parks are effected by many government regualtions in addition to ride safety regulations.  Examples include:  OSHA, zoning and planning, sewage and drainage, restaurant regulations, liquor regulations, sanitary regualtions, building codes, and I'm sure many more if I think longer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 10:37 AM

Good points about states that don't have rides paying for Federal Regulations.  I have never lived in a state that didn't have amusement parks so I overlooked that obvious problem.

Maybe IAAPA should step in and take a proactive role by trying to work with states to bring them together on a set of regulations that make sense from a business and safety standpoint.  I still assert that the rides, especially those that are identical (clones) in various states, should have the same guidelines.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 11:03 AM
The truth is, we don't know if the industry has a 'great track record'.  Do you really think that every incident is reported?  There is no way of knowing that the ride you are on today wasn't involved in an accident yesterday.  After all, it's in the best interest of the park/carnival to keep these things quiet.  Come on guys.  We have all been to a carnival or two where the rides were obviously in a state of disrepair or the operators were only concerned with picking up girls.  You can file complaints, but these outfits have moved on before you can follow up on them.

Just because something is safer than driving a car, dosen't mean we shouldn't keep an eye on it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 11:14 AM
One of my major concerns is that here in Ohio we've had a State program of ride licensing and State inspections since 1984, updated on a periodic basis. The State inspectors, the ride safety board, and the ride operators (operator here meaning the owners, not necessarily the button-pushers) have a collaborative arrangement that has taken years to develop, and has so far functioned remarkably well.

Likewise, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a widely-respected state inspection program which is somewhat different from the Ohio program, in order to meet local requirements. In Pennsylvania, most ride operators have employees who are certified as State in effect, Pennsylvania's rides get a state inspection every day, with compliance visits from the Department of Agriculture. That's two examples of different approaches to the problem of ride safety, tailored for the particular jurisdiction. Clark County, NV, the State of New Jersey, the State of New York, and the State of Florida all have fairly elaborate ride inspection programs in place, with New Jersey being the most draconian in that they hold manufacturers accountable for standards compliance, and Florida doing the most inspections by requiring a State inspection at every set-up (though Florida exempts the largest parks. Boo! Hiss!).

The problem is, a Federal program would most likely effectively dismantle the good existing programs and leave the whole nation with the kind of program that Texas has, where independent insurance inspectors sign off on the rides and file an affidavit with the State that says the rides are safe, with no compliance or enforcement mechanism.

Should inspections be standardized? Absolutely. But then, they already are: The industry tends to comply with a large set of standards developed by the ASTM F-24 committee, standards which in many cases are incorporated by reference into local laws. The cornerstone of the ASTM standards is that in all cases, the Manufacturer's standards are to be followed. The result is that formally or informally, every reputable ride operator in the industry is following the manufacturer's guidelines, and THAT is what makes for safe rides. State compliance programs simply provide a LEGAL reason for the operators to do the right thing. Never mind that the legal requirements should be over-ridden by the ethical and business requirements anyway.

As for that list of states that do or do not have ride safety regulations...there's a whole lot of that sort of information available through

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

*** This post was edited by RideMan on 10/16/2001. ***

Tuesday, October 16, 2001 11:22 AM

The parks need to hire you to go serve as a lobbyist up in D.C.!


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