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Columbus, Ohio


Why injury? It's this simple: more children die from injuries every year than from the next three leading causes of death combined. Nobody knows this because no one is talking about it. In the U.S., one child dies every hour from an injury that could have been prevented. Around the world, a child dies every 30 seconds as the result of an injury. You don’t need to have a child to know that we can do better.


Who's Regulating That Ride?

End Injury

Injuries from amusement rides have gotten a lot of attention from the news media recently, including this article in The New York Times. Many people just assume that someone is checking that these rides are safe, but even when a ride passes an inspection, it’s hard to know what that really means. Rides are regulated mostly by state law with some oversight from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, but the laws are different in every state, and some states have no standards at all. That got me thinking about a near-miss story I heard from a friend.

My friend and her 6-year-old daughter decided to ride a roller coaster at a local fair. Her daughter was tall enough, so they got into a car and pulled the safety lap bar into place. My adult friend was secure, but the lap bar didn’t come down far enough for her much-smaller daughter. This problem became glaringly obvious when the roller coaster suddenly stopped at the top of the tallest hill.

As they waited for the ride to restart, my friend got more and more nervous that her daughter would fall out of the car. There were no sides on the cars, so the lap bar was the only thing holding them in. The minutes ticked by, but the ride stood still. My friend had to use all of her parenting tricks to keep her increasingly-fidgety daughter safe inside the car. After a full hour, a rescue crew finally reached their car, and my friend and her daughter climbed down a ladder to safety.

Now, my friend is a good parent who followed the rules of the ride, but in this case, the rules just weren’t enough to fully protect them. This wasn’t the fastest or the tallest ride, so the lap bar seemed like it would be safe enough. Lap bars work when both riders are the same size but fail when riders are different sizes. The failure wasn’t necessarily the lap bar itself; it was allowing an adult to ride with her child without additional safety features, such as a seat belt.

The truth is that it’s hard to know what is considered “safe” on these rides. My friend lives in a state that inspects fair rides, and the ride was approved. This shows that we can’t always trust the ride’s operators or the agency inspecting the ride to make the best decisions regarding our safety. We have to think carefully about risks on our own, even when there’s a shiny sticker of approval that leads us to believe that something is safe. Next time I get ready to climb onto a ride, you can be sure I’ll follow the lesson my friend learned: just because it’s open to the public doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for me and my family.

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