Markey on Accidents: Bring on the Feds

Monday, May 10, 2004 2:57 AM
I just posted this in the comments section of the news article, but I wanted a better chance for people to read and reply to it, so I thought I'd post it here too. Enjoy:I used to post frequently on these boards years ago, but since have had a position within the industry and haven't felt like it would be appropiate to post on message boards. This accident however has actually got me to sign up again, so here goes...

Markey is a complete idiot. It is people like him that make all democrats look bad. I generally consider myself a Democrat, but his complaint that the Republican party is blocking amusement park legislation is stupid. Congress isn't hearing his stuff because in the long run, it doesn't matter.

Most states already have inspectors that come in and inspect the rides. Has anyone here ever seen how this inspection takes place? I have. The person walks in, asks the park to operate the ride once, it is run and the state person says it looks good. They have no clue how the rides operate, how the safety restraints work and so on. They figure that if the park maintance staffs keep them going, the rides must be working right. Adding a federal person to do the same thing would just be stupid.

Markey has been an idiot for years. After his "brain damage" report came out, I went through it and out of the 60 or so cases in it, I found at least 1/3rd that were incorrectly attributed to rides or were inconclusive at best. There were glaring errors in this report including the fact that certain rides were not roller coasters but were included, certain deaths were attributed to non-ride issues but were included, and certain rides weren't even contained in the parks that were stated. If you can't get those simple facts straight, how could you believe that his reporting is accurate?

On a completely seperate note, something has to be done about Intamin. It is apparant that Intamin has not considered safety to be the highest priority in their rides. Before everyone flips, think about how many deaths have occured on Intamin rides over the past few years. Compare that to B&Ms. In the newer B&M rides, the ride will not allow you to send the train if any of the restraints are in an area that could not lock patrons in safely. If a patron is too large, the ride will refuse to exit the station until the person has been removed and the restraint has been rechecked. Intamin rides have none of the same security precautions. In fact, you can start an Intamin ride with all of the harnesses in the unlocked position.

On top of this, the amount of extreme modifications that Intamin rides that have been built since 1999 have needed is unacceptable. The new supports on Superman: UE and V2, the additions to the spike on Wicked Twister and the problems with the brakes on their rides really make you question how good the design team at Intamin is. I wholeheartedly agree with the state of Massachuetts that Intamin rides need to be reviewed and fixed before more accidents occur. I have personally stopped riding all newer Intamin rides because of these problems.

Anyway, getting back to the problem, the tradegy at hand is a horrible, horrible thing but I do not like Markey capitilizing on it to further his political agenda (like he has done on every ride-related death over the past few years). Taking a look at some of his quotes:

"The fatality rate on roller coasters is approximately the same as that on trains and buses and planes -- no worse, but no better. That is why the amusement ride industry does not deserve a free pass from federal safety oversight."

You know, you are all wrong with this point -- Markey is right! The fact that he overlooks is that he is comparing the numbers to distance traveled and not riders. Lets say that one plane takes 100 riders from New York to San Francisco. The riders fly approximately 2900 miles, for a grand total of 290,000 miles booked by the people on board. I'd guess an average coaster is a quarter mile long and we'll use a capacity of 32 people per trip. That means per ride, the people on a roller coaster rack up a total of 8 miles. For that ride to equal the same total distance as the 100 people on the plane to San Francisco took, the ride would have to cycle 36,250 times and carry a total of 1,160,000 people. That is 116,000 times as many passengers as many people as the plane carries. If the ride can cycle through 10,000 people per day (a much higher number than is the average), each ride would equal one trans-contintental flight once a year.

Anywho, in conclusion Markey is right -- roller coaster fatalities happen at the same rate (actually, a slightly higher rate) as they do on trains and planes. Comparing these numbers like this would be a completely unacceptable way to conduct yourself in any other format except that of a politician though...

And god knows why he put busses in there. That number is just way off. Then again, this is Markey we're talking about. I guess that is also why he put in the bus braking flaw that crops up. I must have missed how often the investigators find a GLARING problem like brakes that suddenly fail, and then how it gets tranferred to every make and model bus in the world!

"Ride antics that are forbidden but nevertheless common cause problems at 100 miles per hour that could be ignored at 50 miles per hour. Operator misjudgments can lead to safety failures that would previously have been tolerated by the ride systems." Um... Okay, so ride antics (assuming he means guests here) that are forbidden are things that ride ops don't see from the station. Some idiot hides his camera in his shirt and takes it on the ride and drops it from 150 feet up in the sky and it hits someone and kills them. This isn't an operator misjudgement, this is a guest being an idiot. What operator misjudgements can lead to safety failures that would have previously been tolerated? As I mentioned, the new B&M rides go as far as to tell you what seat isn't locked correctly. That leads to a safety success that would have been tolerated by ride systems of old...

By the same token, there is only one ride that I know of that goes 100 MPH, and as far as I know, it hasn't had any common problems on it. Superman: Ride of Steel is a fast ride -- he didn't even need to lie to make that number sound "huge."

"In the absence of any federal regulation, ride regulation falls to state or local jurisdictions unless, as in all too many states, the parks are simply left to regulate themselves. Thanks to the pioneering persistence of former Massachusetts representative Paul Caron, the state Legislature remedied a longstanding gap in state law several years ago, and we no longer allow the parks to self-regulate in Massachusetts. Park rides should be regulated primarily at the state level. It should not be a federal responsibility to inspect rides before they open each spring or to issue annual operation permits, for example."

Again, as mentioned the state inspectors have no clue what to do with the rides and a whole park can be inspected in a day or two. If that is a true "inspection" then I know that park managers / supervisors / leads / whatever inspect the ride more than the state does every day, and that doesn't even take into account the time that a park's maintance staff spends with a ride. Also, the "pioneering" work of Caron isn't that special... most states require an "inspection" of the rides at amusement parks.

"As a result of Saturday's accident, Massachusetts is considering ordering changes in the restraint systems used by Six Flags New England. But two years ago, the very same problem was identified in California after a similar tragedy in which a rider fell out of a high-speed ride that used inadequate restraints. But for the loophole in the law, the owners of Six Flags would have had to make the change two years ago -- not just in California but in Massachusetts as well."

Right... Because if one person dies on a completely different style of ride, the Feds would require that all rides are changed... Hmmm.. Completely different ride style, restraint style, etc. Why didn't Markey at least use the example of the person flying out of the other Superman: Ride of Steel in 1999? I'll admit that it would've been an argument then. By this reasoning, if there is an accident because someone falls out of a ferris wheel at a traveling carnival, amusement parks will have to change the way they operate their simluators. Sound stupid? That's Markey's logic.

"you can't call yourself a responsible industry if you continue to defend a loophole that is putting the riding public in danger."

I'm sorry, but Markey you can't call yourself a responsible politician if someone like me can make a better argument for your platform that I don't agree with at all than you can. With ten minutes of research and a little planning, Markey's stuff could have already passed through a Republican congress but because he can't construct an argument that makes *any* sense, he misses simple facts like what a roller coaster is and he makes statements about accidents to further himself before the facts are known (SFGAm Raging Bull last year was a PERFECT example, as he blamed the ride operators for the accident).

Also, before anyone here jumps on the "18 years old to operate sounds great" bandwagon, I'd like to ask you all how many 18+ people you know that would like to spend their entire lives working outside for 8-10 months a year and getting low pay to do it? I don't think you'll find ANY that would want that as their only job. Parks do not tolerate doofuses running their rides. If they did, there would be a lot more accidents. Running an amusement park ride safely is as easy as making french fries at McDonalds. There is no reason why a mature person shouldn't be able to do that.

So that's the whole argument from me. Markey is an idiot, Intamin needs to really look at how they build their rides and start implementing safety measures that B&M uses to stop these problems from happening and parks need to continue to do the stringent safety checks that they do without the fed monkeying around.

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Monday, May 10, 2004 7:05 PM
You failed to mention that Markey's latest crusade is to ban ride operators who are under 18 using OSHA. I'm not even sure that this is a bad idea, but states can handle it.

I do hope that Intamin will do a thorough analysis of both their lap bar restraints and their braking systems. Quick fixes are a help, but a detailed analysis should also be done.

I've stated before that the fatality rate based on mileage comparison is not the appropriate way to measure safety on coasters. For that matter it isn't usually the best way to measure safety on airplanes since the risk is more per flight than per mile. For automobiles it does make sense.

I can't speak for other states, but the inspections here in Maryland are not the cursory inspections that you described. The inspectors really take a close look here.

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