Kentucky passes 18-year-old ride op requirement bill

Posted Wednesday, April 2, 2008 9:42 AM | Contributed by Outlane

The Kentucky Senate voted 37-0 on Tuesday night for final passage of legislation that prohibits anyone younger than 18 from operating such rides. The House passed the bill 97-0 on Thursday. The governor intends to sign the bill. The regulation comes as a reaction to last year's accident at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom where 14-year-old Kaitlyn Lasitter's feet were severed in an accident on the park's drop tower.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 9:46 AM
This is reactionary and pointless legislation. The politicians saw something bad happen and want to appear as if they're doing something. I'm with David Mandt on this one. There's no correlation of data between accident rates and ride operator age. If this law were active last year, it would not have prevented the accident.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 10:05 AM
I still want to know if there's a distinction between operating the control panel (and being in charge) of a ride and attending the ride (checking restraints, etc.).

I know this distinction is made in MA.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 10:27 AM
This doesn't do a thing. Its just like the alleged switch on top of Millennium Force, just because someone has to flip it every day doesn't mean they actually inspected the ride on their way up.

I am curious just how many kids under 18 they had working previously. Kennywood and Cedar Point seem to staff mostly college age people for their rides.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 11:57 AM
To me this just makes sense. 16 years seems awful young to be operating a ride. If you disagree I am curious as to what age you feel is too young - 15? 14? 13? Where do you draw the line?
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:08 PM
You know what? I've met some 13 year olds who are more mature than a lot of 18 year olds. It's a dumb law because being 18 does not just automatically make you mature and ready to operate a ride.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:37 PM
Agreed. So where do you draw the line? My 9 year old seems pretty mature. Can he operate the coaster that you want to ride on?

The problem is that age is not an absolute, but since there is no test for maturity that I know about, it is about the only thing to go by.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:37 PM
Makes sense? By that logic, they should raise the driving age. Cars aren't on a track, have no E-stop and aren't operated by computers.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:47 PM
If you consider an amusement park ride to be heavy machinery (which, given the weight of the cars, the hydraulics involved, etc.) if the operator were in any other industry they would need to be 18 to run such equipment. In a manufacturing environment, one has to be 18 to operate a pallet jack or any other industrial grade machine. Chauffeurs must be 18 and have a clean driving record. Why then shouldn't ride operators be required to be 18 to run a ride?
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:59 PM
Jeff Young, I don't think it's much about maturity as much about the mental capacity to be able function under that kind of stress. I was much more "mature" when I was 16 than I am now (I'm 21, in a fraternity, and a cray college guy), but I can funcion much better and handle things I couldn't when I was 16.

NOW, on the same side, I totally agree this law is bull****. Why stop at 18? Lets make it 21. No they're just frat boys like me, make it 24, because they can rent cars right? How about 30? See where I'm going?

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 1:17 PM
That's just it. It's arbitrary. It's not based on any specific data points.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 2:06 PM
Walt S makes some good points.

IMO any large ride such as this should be staffed by a supervisor/manager with experience running the ride. At the Six Flags parks I have been to this is not the case at all. In fact I have seen teams on major rides goof off, and when they see the supervisor walking up they straighten up.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 2:21 PM
It's funny because you can solo in an airplane as a student piolt at the age of 14 (providing you meet the testing requirements, of course). At the age of 16, you can obtain your recreational license and carry passengers and you can obtain your full pilots license at 17. I would certainly qualify an airplane as heavy machinery.

It's not the age, it's training and supervision. The FAA has very specific testing requirements and accountability models which makes their system work. If a park has a solid training program, with accountability built into their operational programs, age will rarely be a factor. It's a training and supervision issue, not an age issue.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 2:53 PM
What is the age restriction on lifeguards in Kentucky?
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 3:52 PM
I'm a bit confused on this. Does this just mean panel operators or are all ride attendants considered "operators"? In most parks the person that operates the control panel for a ride has to pass a different and more thorough certification test than an attendant that's just certified to check restraints and press verification buttons.

Also comparing heavy machinery operation to modern ride operation is apples to oranges. The basics include making sure guest meets rider requiremnts, is seated properly, and is properly restrained, making sure area around ride is clear,then pressing a green button or signaling panel operator - computer does the rest. If something bad happens press the big fat red button and call maintenence and management to come do the rest. I could understand the idea behind an 18 year old being required for panel operation as many parks require this anyway, but a 12 year old could safely check restraints and press a green button.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 10:00 PM
A supervisor to operate each ride... might as well change the park to "Payroll Overages Park" while we're at it. If a park is properly training it's employees, anyone should be able to do it. As far as "how young is too young" you can't get much younger than 18 anyways. 14 is about the youngest any state will let a person work at, and usually then with prohibitive restrictions that would make most parks steer clear of using them in a ride operator position anyways. From my understanding, many Six Flags parks (I don't know about KK specifically) allow 15 year olds to work, but not in rides positions.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 11:35 PM
At Cedar Point in order to be allowed to operate a ride, one must be 18.

Here in WV and in PA where I used to live, one must be 18 to operate the cardboard compactor at the store where I am employed.

In most states, the age of sexual consent is 18 years old.

One must be 18 to vote in an election.

One must be 18 to buy cigarettes.

One must be 18 to be allowed into an R rated movie without a parent.

So are all of those age restrictions pointless?

Yes, a lot of kids are very mature for their age. I have nothing against teenagers. It is easier for me to trust a legal adult than it is to trust a "youth" when my life is concerned. Rides are very large machines with moving parts. I am fine with kids under 18 working at the games booth or the Dippn' Dots stand, for example.

I can understand the poor attitude some of you have about the lawmakers in this story. Motives are a big interest of mine, and you all seem to have a good point there.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008 2:02 AM
^The point is, that these lawmakers think that by raising the age to 18 to run a ride in Kentucky, that this accident wouldn't have happened. They want to make the public think that age caused this accident and that is wrong.

By the way, one must be 17 to see an R rated movie without supervision.

Age of consent for sex varies widely amongst states. 18 isn't the main age for that.

No, these ages aren't pointless. I just can't stand lawmakers who think an absolute age for something solves problems.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008 9:00 AM
Age should not be the issue here, and it would not have made any difference in the drop tower incident. Instead, rigorous and thorough training should be the focal point.

Edit: However, age 16 should probably be the line for operators. I don't think I would personally be comfortable riding a machine run by anyone younger. There's a fine line between child and young adult, and while age isn't a firm determining factor, there really isn't much else to use as a general guideline.
*** This post was edited by DannyThompson 4/3/2008 9:03:00 AM ***

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Thursday, April 3, 2008 10:02 AM
Actually, the age of consent in most states is 16, not 18. It's irrelevant anyway. You can't just stand in a vacuum and declare that operating a ride is the same as [insert activity here]. At issue isn't whether or not age restrictions on those activities is necessary, it's whether or not this age restriction makes sense.
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