Every year, nationwide, an estimated 8,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms for injuries involving thrill rides at amusement parks and traveling carnivals; in an average year, three or four die.
Kiddie rides designed for ages 4 and under account for nearly a quarter of amusement park injuries to children. This category includes inflatable attractions such as bounces and slides. “Parents need to use their own judgment. Posted age and height requirements are minimal guidelines,” says Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator.
“Follow the rules,” says Stegelman. “If a ride operator tells you to keep your hands and feet inside the car, to hold the handrail or to remain seated, there’s a good reason.”
Parents and caregivers need to decide whether their children are capable of sitting properly on a ride and following the operator’s instructions.
In addition, Safe Kids Kansas reminds parents:
Be a good role model. Children are more likely to follow safety rules when they see their parents doing so.
Supervise your child getting on and off a ride. Make sure the child understands all announcements and posted rules. Also, don’t allow children to supervise younger children on rides.
Always use the safety equipment provided. Safety belts, lap bars, chains, handrails and other safety features are there for a reason.
Never get off a moving ride. Wait until the ride comes to a complete stop. Also, if a ride stops due to a mechanical problem or safety concern, stay seated and wait for instructions.
Don’t let children ride if they’re too tired to comply with safety
procedures. On some rides, it’s important to stay upright and face
forward. Also, don’t pressure kids to go on a ride they’re afraid of, as
they’re more likely to sit incorrectly or even try to get off.
Note the limitations of safety devices. Lap bars and chains are not
physical restraints — their main function is to remind the occupant to
stay seated. If a small child sits next to a large adult, a lap bar might
not offer the child much protection.
Trust your instincts. If a ride looks like it’s poorly maintained or an operator seems to be inattentive or unfit, don’t let your children ride.
While most operators pay close attention to safety, there are exceptions, as in any industry.
For additional information about amusement park safety, visit www.usa.safekids.org.